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Posts tagged “Marvel Cinematic Universe

A Generation In Cinema – The MCU & The Avengers: Infinity War 4/4

Last one I promise, and this will be very light on spoilers. I’ve talked about this film and everything that served to create it for two weeks solid now, and while that may seem more than enough, that’s ten years of films to discuss! And how it has changed, and changed everything around it.

A quick look at the other events of 2008: The CERN supercollidor was inaugurated, Spotify was launched, Obama elected, and Satoshi Nakamoto revealed his plans for Bitcoin. Since then, the cryptocurrency market has turned into a bizarre economic hurricane, the Obama administration has come and gone, Spotify has become an intrinsic part of the way we enjoy music, and no black holes in the Netherlands. (more…)

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Review – Black Panther

This will be a relatively short review, as from the perspective of a white British man there’s not an awful lot to comment on. This is a Marvel origin story, in the vein of Ant Man and Doctor Strange, it brings to light a character that has seen little screen time and attention in the past, and while we have met T’Challa before and know the basics of the Black Panther (at least from the MCU perspective) he’s still a relative unknown compared to the likes of Spidey and Iron Man.

Still, from someone with little investiture in African and African-American culture there was a lot to enjoy, remark upon and unpack. I am calling a Minor Spoiler warning but*… well I’ll get to that in a little while. (more…)


Thanos Of The MCU

So far Marvel’s roster of villains has been good enough. Outstanding examples are few, but they rarely detract from the quality of the film and have never been so bland, poorly motivated, and misinterpreted as to match up to Jesse Eisenburg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor!* Most appear for a single film, and are gone for good by the end because most of the heroes in the cinematic universe aren’t so foolish as to keep their rogue’s gallery imprisoned, they just go for full blown obliteration.

Two villains have never completely faded. Loki has stuck around as  beloved fan favourite and loose moral canon, and because Tom Hiddleston is having too much fun with the role. The other has yet to take his place in the front lines of action, but has been pulling the strings of Loki and Ronan the Accuser, and perhaps more since the earliest days of the Cinematic Universe. The Mad Titan, Thanos. (more…)


Top 10 Background Characters

Do you ever feel like your life is meek and bland compared to those over-zealous do-gooders of the world? Don’t worry, you’re not alone, as in every world there are characters who just so happen to be in the background. What do we mean by this, exactly?

If you look at the best stories, they need solid supporting characters. These characters aren’t even the supporting cast. These are characters that are simply just there. They won’t make you go “I enjoyed this title because of that background character”, but they’re often memorable in their own, unique ways. Join us as we check out our Top 10 Background Characters.

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Review – Defenders

Netflix have released the next instalment of their flawed but still superb Marvel series, and it’s the one we’ve been building to since the release of Daredevil back in April 2015. It’s been a long time and a lot of building to get to this point, and it hasn’t all been plain sailing. This eight episode series brings together our fours main players to fight against the greater forces of the Hand, the looming dread that has haunted the series from the very beginning.

Let’s not dance around here. A Spoiler Warning is in full effect. Here are my thoughts on Marvel’s Defenders. (more…)


Spider-Man Homecoming: A Missed Opportunity

What happens when a Spider-fan, of almost three decades, walks into the most eagerly anticipated Spider-Man film since Spider-Man films were a thing? Well, they do so with a lot of expectation! They carry with them memories of the best bits of five previous Spider-films, a fantastic cameo in Civil War, the 90s Spider-Man cartoon (and its AWESOME theme tune) and a shed load of comic book knowledge. Any fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is aware that you can’t get too precious about any of that – there will be changes and you should expect things to be different.

But not like this.

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Review – Spider-Man Homecoming

Cometh the hour, cometh the Spider-Man, right back into the middle of the MCU where he belongs. No backstory, no spider bite – because it has been done – just straight into the life of a teenager irrevocably altered by comicbook logic. Instead we jump in with the Peter Parker straight after the fight in Civil War, hero-worshipping Tony Stark, fully kitted out and ready to get into a fight with someone a little more daunting than the odd bike thief or shoplifter.

After all of the backbiting and corporate petulance between Disney and Sony, it is so good to have Spidey amongst the ranks of the Avengers because without him it all has all seemed a little weird, but here we have a Spider-Man born of the Cinematic Universe, only a child during the New York Incident, and fully immersed in the unique-to-film narratives, lore and history. (more…)


Top 10 – Running Gags

GeekOut Top 10s

Nothing screams in-crowd quite like a running joke. One person does or says something stupid and never gets to live it down, a weird moment of inspiration catches fire and spreads through the gang, or some reoccurring verbal tic becomes a catchphrase. Comedians know this, so do game designers, writers and artists of all types. A good gag can be brought back time and time again, recycled and replayed and somehow it only gets funnier.

Join us as we revisit some of the best recurring gags in geek culture. Ten of them to be exact. And some honourable mentions.

What can I say? We have a pattern.


Top 10

10) M’aiq the Liar – The Elder Scrolls Franchise

M’aiq has been in so many of the Elder Scrolls games now, that he’s a bit of a running joke. But more than that, he’s actually full of rather interesting lines of dialogue, depending on how you interpret his meanings. He runs seemingly aimlessly, from place to place, just sharing his stories, which is hard to believe. He’s not exactly renowned for telling the truth, hence his title.

Only just clawing his way onto our list, M’aiq is definitely an in-joke for Elder Scrolls fans. Well, if not M’aiq himself, his great, great grandson, who is also called M’aiq. This Khajiit knows more than just a few lines of dialogue and usually runs around at quick speed. He’s worth catching up to for a quick chat, so if you find him roaming around Skyrim or even any of the other TES games, stop for a chat!

9) Troy and Abed in the Morning – Community

Unlikely friends in the Greendale Community College study group, sports jock and cool kid Troy Barnes and awkwardly nerdy and fourth wall breaking Abed Nadir bond over a mutual immaturity, creativity, and generally childlike view of the world. Through the various misadventures of their time at college with the others in the group they turn the world upside down, warp genres and create entire worlds. But in their downtime they host a show, Troy and Abed in the Morning.

The catchy jingle, enthusiastic “guests” and the delightful hosts of Troy and Abed in the Morning make it a cheery and oddly grounded highlight of Community’s otherwise deeply bizarre and twisted world. The fact that the boys are making the whole thing up and there are no cameras, or that the guests often have no idea what’s going on, has absolutely no bearing on whether or not they’re enjoying themselves.

8) “Reticulating splines” & Llama fascination – The Sims and SimCity

Everyone who knows the original Maxis brand of Sims titles, extending out to SimCity, will be fondly remember the strange loading words of “Reticulating Splines”. Many of us to this very day are uncertain of what exactly that means, or even if it was just some crazy in-joke, starting from SimCity 2000. In actuality, it was literally made to be a nonsensical phrase intended to just make the Maxis guys laugh. Besides: It sounds cool.

Of course, The Sims is well known for one animal. No, not the pink flamingo! I can only be talking about the Llama, a majestic creature who can be used in everyday conversation. With an insult option for calling someone’s mother a Llama, there’s plenty of different options for how to use the Llama. These include dressing up as one to be a mascot for a team by the same name, bleating like a Llama being an illegal form of interrogation, rejecting a date by saying you need to wash your Llama. Yeah, Maxis are a strange bunch.

7) Horse Mask – Tomska

Creator of the ASDF animation shorts, Thomas “Tomska” Ridgewell is a favourite online comedian of mine. While ASDF may be his most famous series, his life action skits are as good if not better, and his recent fascination with his horse mask has added another rather disturbing layer of comedy. Meet Mrs Johnson.

Appearing in multiple, completely unrelated videos, Mrs Johnson basically a man in a dress and a horse mask who appears long enough to spout a catchphrase “I LOVE IT”. It shouldn’t be funny, but I love the surrealism of Johnson’s appearance at any moment, and it takes one hell of a dark twist when she gets her own skit entitled “Horse”. Sounds like there’s more backstory than what has been hinted at so far. Or Tomska’s just making crap up as he goes along.

6) Short Jokes – Fullmetal Alchemist

“Who you callin’ so puny he could be squished by a bug?!” – Edward Elric.

The Fullmetal Alchemist himself appears to have a running gag, well it was sooo hard to see this one coming. That’s because he is really short and due to that, various characters will allude to this. But he doesn’t like to be reminded of his physical limitations, so he will get pretty angry at anyone who dares insinuate he’s a tiny little man. After all, it’s no different to calling him a child, which he resents. He’s not.

Now, it doesn’t matter how you say it, he really doesn’t want to hear it. He won’t even accept it if you say you didn’t mean it in that way. He’s been known to psyche himself out as well, as he once crawled through some vents, stating how glad he was that he was small enough to fit in the vent, before pausing and screaming out “Aah! I just called myself a tiny little runt!” Oh Edward, we hope you never grow up.

5) Kenny Dies – South Park

Kudos to Parker and Stone for keeping a joke that should have worn out years ago fresh enough that we don’t hate them for dragging it out. This is a joke that has transformed, been cast aside and brought back, observed from every angle and yet… never dies.

The joke originates with a former classmate who was never present and was therefore presumed dead on a daily basis. In early seasons Kenny was killed off every episode only to respawn the very next week. This culminated in an entire season of the gang grieving his death until he spontaneously returned with no fanfare in the last episode. And now Kenny uses his powers for good.

Kenny’s immortal curse now has an overly elaborate backstory wrapped in eldritch mysteries, and looks set to take centre stage in the upcoming game The Fractured But Whole.

4) Wirt’s Leg – Blizzard

Wurt is a running joke in Blizzard’s Diablo franchise, but has gone further than just the Lord of Terror’s titles. He started off as a man in the original Diablo, who basically had his leg tore off by the big bad evils in the game. Then in the second and third games, you could get Wirt’s Leg as an item. In World of Warcraft, you could get Wirt’s Third Leg and in Diablo III you could also get Wirt’s Other Leg. Oo err.

Wirt has had many different legs, which have appeared over at least 5 different games, from Diablo I, II and III, World of Warcraft, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. He was also a test item in the Blizzard MOBA Heroes of the Storm. Now, don’t forget, the most important thing about Wirt’s leg is the ability to create portals to incredibly secret cow levels. They’re so secret that everyone knows about them… Because Wirt’s Leg combined with a tome of town scroll totally makes a portal.

3) Phrasing! – Archer

I think we’re all a little tired of “That’s what she said”, this isn’t the 90’s any more and frankly I think we can all agree She has a dirty mouth but doesn’t have a lot to say otherwise.

Now where do you even begin with all of the jokes in Archer? Between the creative insults, the worst passwords ever, the voicemail pranks, and LAANNAAAA there’s so much to choose from. But phrasing rather escaped the show and slipped out into the real world. It’s quick, effective, and points out an innuendo far faster than She ever could, and it spread so fast that the show not only stopped using it, but made a joke out of no longer using it.

The in-jokes of Archer spring up so naturally and organically that it makes the cast feel more real, and less written. It feels like these people are living and working together rather than being thrown together in a comedic situation. And now that series 8 has begun I have to ask…

Seriously, are we not doing phrasing any more?

2) Bart Simpson Writing on the Chalkboard – The Simpsons

Bart Simpson has started up every episode of The Simpsons with a different bit of ‘detention writing’ to put up on the chalkboard of his classroom. Sometimes, these lines he has to write are just purely silly, such as not putting gum under his desk, but other times, it’ll be reference to a real life event or celebrity. He has, in the past, mentioned presidents along with big name celebrities (although they rarely specify the full name of the celebrity).

It seamlessly blends the real with the typical cartoony values that Springfield has become customary of. We don’t watch an episode of The Simpsons without thinking of those ridiculous Simpson openings, either. Bart makes up one of the two major parts that changes episode by episode, also meaning that he’s been doing this since the late 80s. Now, in 2017, we’re going to finally see the writing on the wall for Bart and his family, as it’s officially coming to an end.

This is probably the longest running gag on this list, so if you’d like to see some of these amazing jokes for yourself, check them out at Bartsblackboard.com.

1) Stan Lee – Every Marvel Comic Universe Film

When a returning cameo is so good you have people on the edge of their seats in the cinema waiting for it you know you’re onto a winning formula. The face of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee keeps showing that face in as many films based on his properties as he possibly can, and he’s escalated from a quick and unsubtle look at the camera to being the centrepiece for some of the MCU’s funniest moments. We’ve seen it all from a brief appearance as Hugh Hefner to a librarian obliviously sorting through returns while Spidey and Lizard tear each other to shreds behind him.

The prevailing theory is that Stan is actually playing a recurring role rather than just popping up as a friendly face, Uatu the Watcher, an ancient being tasked with witnessing the most important events in the universe. The kind of power that would give him might explain how his presence spans the cinematic, television and animated aspects of the Marvel property, as well as popping up across the Galaxy, meaning he may well play some kind of important role in the upcoming Infinity Wars.

Throughout 2016, fans waited on tenterhooks as the grim spectre of death stalked one beloved celebrity after another, wondering with each cameo if it could be his last. Of course if he doesn’t turn out to be an actual immortal, then he’ll always live on through his works.


Honourable Mentions

While many jokes will outlive their series and outreach their audience, there are a few that will remain as a calling card for those niche little groups and die-hard fans. Some just fizzle. But let us not forget them, but let us also not list every single one of them here, we’ve got a word count to keep to and nowhere near the man power to list them all. Here’s some honourable mentions.

Ghost Nappa/Nappa Haunting – DragonBall Z Abridged

We’ve mentioned it before and we’ll mention it again – We love abridged series, so much so that today at the GeekOut Bristol Meetup (8th April 2017), we’re hosting an abridging challenge with some great top prizes. Now that we’ve shamelessly plugged this, let’s continue with this entry.

Ghost Nappa is a character that was dreamed up from the pure stupidity that is Nappa. In the actual series of DragonBall Z, he was quite an imposing character, with a lot of seriously deadly skills (at least early in the show). After Vegeta ruthlessly despatches him, Vegeta cements himself as the real bad guy here. However, on DragonBall Z abridged, it seems like Nappa’s personality has an everlasting effect.

Out pops Ghost Nappa, complete with a theme song and all! He’s really damn annoying and he haunts Vegeta occasionally on the Namekian saga. Even in death, it seems like Vegeta can’t get rid of this once proud, but rather unintelligible Saiyan warrior.

Chinese Swearing – Firefly

How do you get around censorship when you really want to swear liberally? Well, a host of sci-fi series would suggest making up your own swearwords that don’t appear on any list, but Joss Whedon’s verse had a rather cunning addition to its backstory that allowed for as much cussing and grotesquely creative insults as you could want, all able to be shown to an American audience during dinner, because it’s all in Chinese.

So it may not be hilarious, but it’s a running bit that adds flavour to an awesome world and deepens its history. When Mal launches into a long string of unintelligible syllables we all know what’s going on, and can’t help but imagine that somewhere there’s native speakers in the audience either covering the ears of the children in the room, or wincing at Nathan Fillion’s wooden and badly pronounced delivery.


 

Some jokes outstay their welcome, get old, and get stale. And yet somehow you guys never seem to tire of our Top 10’s. That’s fine, we love making them, probably more than you guys enjoy reading them. And just like every week you get to pick which Top 10 we discuss next week.

What jokes tickle your funny bone no matter how many times you hear them? What are your favourite running gags? Tell us in the comments or Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.

Hey, you there, I see you like our Top 10’s! That’s great, but we need your help now. We are thinking of writing up our Top 10’s as an eBook. Interested? Let us know what you would like to see in our Top 10 eBook!


Review – Doctor Strange

The long anticipated and lesser known title to emerge onto the MCU’s steamroller of success is Doctor Strange, and despite a little controversy over the appointment of Benedict Cumberbatch to the role it’s everything we’ve come to expect from this media leviathan. Oh sure, it’s formulaic, but it’s Marvel’s formula, which has been working rather well for the last eight years and thirteen films. That’s halfway to the number of James Bond films there are in one seventh the time and barely any changes in lead actors.

Phase Three; Episode 2 delivers new levels of mysticism layered on top of the flimsy scientific justifications that Marvel has been getting good at, so long as you bear in mind a quote from the first Thor film you’ll be doing fine:

“Your ancestors called it magic, but you call it science. I come from a land where they are one and the same.”

Sounds about right.

The Good

Our hero is pretty much the centre of our formula, practically a carbon copy of Tony Stark all the way down to the facial hair: an egotistical genius who excels in his field who suffers a life changing event, and his pursuit to put things right eventually land him the role of a superhero, in this case a brain surgeon seeking to restore the use of his hands turns to mystic arts. There’s a lot of Sherlock Holmes in Stephen Strange, and not just because Cumberbatch played both, but the degrees of obsession, arrogance, intelligence, and cunning make a comparison inevitable.

Tilda Swinton appears as herself, an ageless mystic capable of incredible feats of contorting the material world. Her character actually raised bigger concerns about Hollywood whitewashing, but she actually cuts a very original take on the eastern sensei that breaks a few cliches that would have seemed hackneyed in modern cinema. It’s a performance that demanded great verbal, emotional and physical delivery, and Swinton delivers on all counts.

All told we have a fairly slim cast of characters. We have a love story that is blown through fairly quickly and leaves us with a rather interesting little slice of narrative that helps us develop Strange and something we might revisit at another time, although I feel it could have been abandoned altogether with minimal effort. I’m sure most of us will find love for Wong, the deadpan comedy foil and all-round awesome librarian. Mordo presents an interesting figure so far as sidekicks go, eluding to a rather unpleasant history that led him to uncover the mystic arts, something I’m sure we’ll learn more about in the future.

The Bad

Dormammu I knew to be a major villain in the Marvel Universe, one of those elder-evil types, bigger and badder even than Thanos, so when my Marvel expert on-call said they shouldn’t jump straight to the big guns, they should leave some room to escalate the situation. However using a minor villain – Mads Mikkelson as Kaecilius – as a mortal vessel of the Dark Dimensions puts a limitation on Dormammu that makes him a fearsome enough adversary without overwhelming the new sorcerer. Kaecilius actually reminds me a lot of Tai Lung from Kung Fu Panda, the student who excelled so far before turning on their master for withholding some incredible power, only to be struck down by the new prodigy who seems more willing to learn the truth.

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Keep your eyes peeled for the thinly veiled future villain. Trust me, he’s not hard to spot, and he gets more and more obvious as the film goes on. If you need it spelling out for you just wait until the end-of-credits scene, the second one. And if you’re one of those people who leaves before the credits are over in a Marvel film then I automatically assume you’re the kind of person who doesn’t recycle and habitually throw away large amounts of food; it’s wasteful and frankly rude.

Villainy and threat are often second fiddle to origin story in films such as these, it’s something to which Yellowjacket, Ronan the Accuser, and Francis all fell prey in their respective appearances, and Doctor Strange presents us with a similar case where focus on the hero leaves us with an underdeveloped and readily forgotten villain. Oh, not that any of them were bad villains, but they’re not what people will take away from their respective titles.

The Strange

On seeing the trailers I was a little concerned at the shifting worldscapes might be too much detail to bombard the senses. Well maybe, but cinematography made life easier, flat colour palettes typical of New York architecture make the outlandish costumes of the main cast stand out a mile, camera work keeps the focus on the action, leaving the whirling details to emphasise the speed and dynamics of every moment. I also had my concerns about the Cloak of Levitation becoming a little too adorable and “mascot-ish” but it balanced personality with entertainment value without swallowing the whole show for itself.

Though the bulk of the film is visually stunning I found one particular fight a little hard to watch, a brawl between two astral projections that seemed a little too unreal for me to buy into the tension of the scene. The ghosts of the two combatants seemed to have almost a Casper-like glow and translucency about them, and while the setting may have been intended to feel claustrophobic it just made everything harder to follow where other, more elaborate scenes had done the job so much better.

Kudos to Cumberbatch for the character research

Kudos to Cumberbatch for the character research

Biggest question: we learn that there are three sanctuaries placed around the world that emanate suitable protection from extra-dimensional forces to cover the globe, London, New York and Hong-Kong. Nothing in the southern hemisphere? Why does Johannesburg not get a chapter?

It took me longer than I’m proud of to spot the Infinity Stone. I’m not entirely sure how so many of these are ending up on Earth but seriously can someone try keeping them separate? We have two, and that feels like too many. We now have five out of six with only the with only the stone of the Soul remaining, meaning Ragnarok should see the beginnings of Thanos’ collection, and if you stick around long enough you’ll see how it’ll all tie together.

In short, watch Doctor Strange, it is a good film, and while that may sound like an over simplification I can’t honestly say that there’s much more to Doctor Strange than that. Visually it is a spectacle of a standard we’ve come to anticipate, action takes standards laid down by the Matrix to their next logical step, drama gives us comedy and tragedy in fairly even handed measures, and we are left with a new character who no doubt will make the Avengers that little bit richer for his presence. It’s still looking like a boy’s club but given the source material they’re working on we can’t expect much else just yet.

It’s Strange, but who am I to judge.


Round 2 – Civil War and Dawn of Justice

In which we compare the two biggest comic book showdowns as they duke it out on the silver screen. This is the second part of a two part review because it got too long to confine to a single article. Read part 1 here. There are a lot more spoilers to be found in this section so a warning is in effect across the board.

Fidelity

Marvel – This is the first time I’ve seen a Marvel film to which I have read the actual comic! Oh I’m a fan of comics, sure, but my knowledge is broadly based on cartoons, games and research, I only pick up the odd comic here and there, but Civil War felt like a must have.

Well, the Nigeria replaced the Stamford Incident, a disastrous mission by a young band of heroes facing off against a far more experienced villain. The Superhero Registration Act was the original name for the Sokovia Accords but by and large they represent the same thing, except that in the comics the concern was more over identifying rather than regulating supers, and Spider-Man revealing his identity becomes a pivotal moment with major ramifications. I like that Parker and Stark are already bonding though. (more…)