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Top 10 Hard to Describe Skills (that we will describe)

GeekOut Top 10s

You know, I can’t quite place my finger on it. I mean, I know what it looks like, but what is it exactly? Well, I mean, it’s like that time when you umm…

No wait, it’s like that thing that uhh…

… Wow, this Top 10 are full of skills that are really quite hard to describe. Today, we’re going to try and describe some skills that, really, do need a bit of explaining. They might not be the most complex of skills, nor necessarily the most powerful, but they are definitely hard to describe. (more…)


Super Team Ups – The MCU & The Avengers: Infinity War 2/4

Spoilers Ahead!

Tuesday I summarised the MCU as best as I could in brief, and tried to give you some idea of what to expect from Infinity War without giving too much away. Today the gloves are off, and so begins the review proper.

Given the volume of characters in play, it makes absolute sense to divide the narrative between them, each group trying to find a way to halt the progress of the Mad Titan. So let’s take this group by group, doing insufficient justice to each character as we go because we have many years to summarise with each:

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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.


Top 10 Wizards

GeekOut Top 10s

Knowledge is power!

Learned wielders of great magical powers, weavers of great and terrible spells, and generally overpowered. Wizards are one of the fantasy classics that’ ingrained into our culture, so long as magic captures our imagination and we can still keep coming up with incredible characters to use it, then wizards just won’t die (we’re looking at you Gandalf).

We have gathered for you the finest magic casters (you might call it a Magical Gathering) but there’s a rule! The best wizards in this list have learned and obtained their powers through study and practice, and less dependence on biology or innate power. This one stipulation may cause some shocking revelations, as you will discover as we make our way through the Top 10 Wizards.


Top 10

10) Time Wizard – YuGiOh!

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He’s got Wizard in the name, but we don’t know his mortality – other than the fact that he can take some damage and be killed. We also don’t know how learned he is. But he’s certainly got a lot of magical power. The Time Wizard is one of the most iconic cards from the Childrens Card Game, YuGiOh. If you’ve ever seen Joey Wheeler from the anime, then you’ll no doubt be familiar with this tricky time trickster.

The Time Wizard is literally a clock, which comes out and does some weird things with time. He can reverse time, or sent time forward but hundreds or thousands of years. So in terms of magical power, this little ticking time tinkerer is actually pretty strong. Unfortunately, due to a lack of lore about him, we can’t tell if this is a character that learned the ticks of his trade, or if he simply was born with them.

9) Doctor Strange – Marvel

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Ok, we’re raising Strange because he has a film on the way, but his official title is the Sorcerer Supreme. Some concession of course because he did study for the role under the previous Sorcerer Supreme after a car accident damaged his hands, hindering his ability to perform brain surgery. Spoilers by the way…

Through his manipulation of magical forces he helps protect our realm from forces far darker than any other hero in the Marvel universe, demonic forces and magical entities that dwell in border dimensions. Interestingly the powers of the Sorcerer Supreme also draw on beings of ancient entities such as Cyttorak, which also makes him a Warlock, so credit where credit’s due, Stephen Strange really hits all the spell-casting classes at once.

8) Gandalf – Lord of the Rings

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The first in our incredibly long line of shocks is Gandalf the Grey, or Gandalf the White. This grizzled old human is seemingly one of the most wise and powerful wizards on this entire list – So how on Earth, (or Middle-Earth,) did he end up so far down the list? With his massive beard and his staff… And all of that magic, how can he be so low? I mean he even refers to himself as a wizard.

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is, a Wizard is primarily mortal. This is someone who is learned, someone who has had to study, without there being magical power within them. So with this in mind, it’s impossible for us to put Gandalf here… For he’s not mortal. He is in fact a Maiar Spirit, along with, yes you guessed it, Saruman. But instead of disregarding it fully, we respect sorcerers equally – But they’re not what we would call a wizard. Not when the true age of Gandalf is known. He was born before the shaping of Arda.

7) Dumbledore – Harry Potter

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“Wait, hold on one minute here,” I hear you screaming at your monitors with an intense rage, “this ruling is a little bit ridiculous – Dumbledore is a human!” To this, I fully agree with all of you out there, Dumbledore is a very clear human, who was born a human and who died a human. Regardless of the non-confirmed fan-theories opinions of Dumbledore being a physical manifestation of Death, we’ll stick to the concept that Dumbledore is a wisened, learned wizard of human blood.

However… We’re going to have to point out, that much like Gandalf and our next entrant to this list, Dumbledore (indeed, Hogwarts as we know it,) might be a lie. For you see, a Wizard is a mortal who is learned. A man or woman who has learned their craft, through being taught. This means that if magical energies are latent within them, albeit needing training, they are actually a sorcerer. This is the definition of a Wizard to a Sorcerer – and Gandalf might be the greatest Sorcerer of all time. Don’t forget what the American’s named the first book: The Sorcerer’s Stone. I’m gutted, as I wanted Dumbledore to be our number one slot.

6) Merlin – Arthurian Legend

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So if Gandalf and Dumbledore have now been, at least for our definition, proven to be sorcerers instead of wizards, how can Merlin be that much greater? The answer lies in the term “learned”. Merlin is possibly more learned than both of these men, which is why we have had so many shocking revelations throughout this list. Merlin was many things, to which they called him a wizard. He was an incredibly intelligent man.

But notice once again he’s only placed at number 6? What could possibly stop him this time? Unfortunately, lore strikes once again – as Merlin was born to a human lady and an incubus. Yes, his daddy whom passed incredible powers onto the most important wizard on this list bar-none, was an Incubus. Now that’s pretty gross – but to make it worse, it stops Merlin going one greater. Sword and the Stone? Sadly, it was another Sorcerer’s Stone!

5) Hoodies – Magicka

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Now we’re beginning to move into the realm of real wizards – so we’re sorry it’s taken us this long to get here. The above are all considered to be wizardly. In fact, some of them literally bare the name wizard and one of them even conceals a whole school of sorcerers as wizards. However, the Hoodies of Magicka is an affectionate nickname we’re giving the main characters of the game, who are powerful wizards.

They’re completely mortal and due to how they’re presented to us, we’re able to surmise that these wizards learned it entirely through dedication and hard work. Sadly though, we don’t have that much evidence that they learned their craft, no matter how learned we believe they are… So we’re setting these powerful mortals to the middle of our list. Because finally, the magic is real guys. Also this game is pretty hard, go play it with some friends and watch your friendships disappear… Like magic!

4) Mustrum Ridcully – Discworld

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We’d have loved to have included Rincewind here, but Rincewind only ever knew one spell, (albeit one of the great spells of creation,) and he was never all that senior. The closest he ever came to authority was as the Head of Cruel and Unusual Geography.

Now Mustrum Ridcully on the other hand, he’s the genuine article, Archchancellor of Unseen University, the one who brought the highest orders of wizardry to heal with a healthy diet and plenty of hygiene; a master of all things magical, except for the strange things those youngsters get up to in the High Energy Magic Buidling; he achieved the 7th level of Wizardry by the age of 27, and has no fewer than eleven qualifications of varying degrees. He is, in fact, Mustrum Ridcully D.Thau., D.M., D.S., D.Mn., D.G., D.D., D.C.L., D.M. Phil., D.M.S., D.C.M., D.W., B.El.L. and Archchancellor.

Ridcully has ended the long string of assassinations to snatch the top spot in the faculty, after the first attempt ended in the ambitious assassin being unceremoniously brutalised by very non-magical methods. He’s also so incredibly powerful, he’s done away with all that messy magic stuff; it’s unhygienic.

3) Mirdon – Doraleous and Associates

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One of Doraleous’ oldest friends and closest allies, Mirdon the wizard is a multi-talented mage with a battery of spells at his disposal, powers that transform his comrades into wild beasts, spells that enhance his senses beyond mortal comprehension, spells that summon inconvenient avalanches of large rocks that kind of just get in the way, and make it difficult for enemies to carry on with what they were doing.

He’s also selfish, disrespectful, foul-mouthed, and actually surprisingly dim for a wizard. He’s a straight-up wizard, studied hard to obtain his power, and joined up with an adventuring party to try and help people. That’d be very honourable and respectable but… he’s just so unlikable! Now, we’re a respectable site, so I can’t really share exactly how horrible he is… suffice to say his most evil spell is one that gives you a permanent nose whistle that never goes away.

Check out the Machinima cartoon to fully understand what I’m getting at here… just don’t do so at work. Unless you’ve got a cool workplace that’s fine with that kind of thing.

2) Veigar, the Tiny Master of Evil – League of Legends

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If you’ve been reading through this list so far, you may be surprised seeing all of the powerful people we assumed were wizards to be so low down. To then turn around and see a hero from League of Legends reaching all the way up to number 2, with no mention of Warcraft or otherwise in sight, it might feel like we’ve gone mad. But Veigar is a well thought out wizard, of non-human origin – Although still mortal.

Veigar was an ordinary boy, who wanted to learn more about the world beyond Bandle City. Being a Yordle, he doesn’t conjure many images of a grand and powerful wizard, but yet neither did the Gnomes of Warcraft. Veigar wanted to learn more and to really be a bit of a trader, so he studied hard. But a deal went wrong and off to jail did Veigar go. Now, jailing a Yordle is pretty dangerous, as is evident from Veigar, the Tiny Master of Evil. Instead of heading back to Bandle City, he ended up seeking out dark wizards to be trained in the ways of evil. Now a twisted little Yordle, this barely 1 meter tall hero, (or shall we say villain,) looks to bring conflict of all of Valoran to a stop… Mostly because he wants city states to bow before him. Ah well, can’t blame him for trying.

Whilst we could argue he’s a Warlock, there’s no evidence that he actually makes any kind of pact. Therefore, he’s a wizard until proven warlock… Because ultimately, all he did was study hard to be the Tiniest Master of Evil.

1) Jace Beleren – Magic: the Gatheringjace-the-mind-sculptor

When we set out to write this list, we both agreed that Jace belonged on the list of wizards. Ultimately, he started as a humble human who aspired to be more, so he self-taught himself until he knew enough to assist where he was needed most. His magics got greater and greater, until one day, he became more than just a mortal. He became a Planeswalker, a powerful entity that can literally walk across different planes of time… But what does this mean exactly?

Taken directly from MTGSalvation, a Wikia dedicated to all that is Magic: the Gathering – “The defining trait of [planeswalkers] is the ability to travel between separate universes with ease, while the vast majority of people throughout the multiverse are not even aware that other worlds beside their own exist. Planeswalking is a form of magic. With enough time and mana, or with specialized spell knowledge, or with access to enormous power, it’s possible for a planeswalker to transfer clothing, artifacts and/or creatures with him as he planeswalks.”

Due to his studies and the fact that Jace started not as a Planeswalker, but became more due to all of his studies. To make matters more complicated though, it’s actually entirely unknown as to how long he studied. Still, time aside, all we know is, this might be the most learned man in any literature, game, film, anime or otherwise.


Venerable Mentions

Given the harsh judgement we have imparted on a few favourites, our honourable mentions have really had to fight hard to get this place. Years of study, diligence to the craft and service to the realm have earned these entries, a Venerable Mention.

Wizards of the Coast

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This one very nearly slipped by us. Wizards are the game studio who make some of the best traditional games on the market, most notably Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: the Gathering, a couple of our personal favourites, but there are a few others you may not be entirely aware of in their catalogue. Ever played Betrayal on the House on the Hill?

Founded in 1990, now a subsidiary of Hasbro, (damn you Hasbro and your Monopoly of traditional games,) Wizards of the Coast manage a wide variety of nerd classics and firm favourites. Sadly though, despite many a magical hour spent gathered around a table playing wizards and casting spells, WotC are drummed into the honourables list because they’re not actually magical and it’s all make-believe.

Wait…

Tim the Enchanter – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Tim the Enchanter is sadly bumped down to the honourables list for his brief appearance, most of which he spends slinging fire around for the sake of it, and for the applause. He seems possessed of prophetic abilities, knowing all about King Arthur and his quest for the Holy Grail before he even approaches.

Only one beast in all of christendom does the mighty Enchanter fear, and that fiend is no ordinary bunny rabbit. Played by Billy Connolly, the Big Yin may only show up for a few minutes in the classic tale of messing around in the British countryside, but it’s one of the best cameos in film history. Oddly the goat horns and robes suit him. [EDIT] Apparently I need to do my research more thoroughly, John Cleese plays the Enchanter.


This one might cause a bit of controversy, but we’re not afraid of that. Instead, we hope that you found our interpretation of a wizard to be a compelling, or even correct one to you. In the meantime, we’re going to ask you to vote on next week’s’ list, which can be one of the below. We’re going for a slightly less ambiguous term for our next list, so please do vote wisely, oh venerable one.

With a puff and a cloud of smoke, it looks like it’s time to wrap up another one of our Top 10 lists. But don’t despair, for we’ll be back again this time next week with yet another Top 10 list as chosen by you. Until then, why not get involved with this week’s list and tell us what you thought of it. Do you feel we were too harsh on some of the characters? Is Jace Beleren worthy of such praise? Do you feel the tiny master of evil was in the right position for this list? Will anyone believe Merlin’s lies after this trick?! As always, leave a comment below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.


What Marvel Are Up To

A few weeks back I mentioned in The Week In Geek that Marvel had announced the release dates for all of their films and TV shows for the third phase of their cinematic universe, and it’s shaping up to be five fantastic years of media. Phase two has a lot of content that’s setting up some of the plots we can look forward to, some of the obvious things like Loki sitting the throne in Asgard, a big Thanos appearance, and of course the original plan of putting Ant Man before Age of Ultron (because of course Hank Pimm helped build Ultron in the first place).

There are some rather less noticeable plots afoot, but anyone with access to wikipedia or a friend who knows a thing or two about comics could work it out. I have both!

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The Week in Geek – 27/10/2014

This was a rather eventful week for the cinema geek!

But not only that, we’ve got lots of small updates – Firestorm’s campaign is over (But their work isn’t finished), Five Nights At Freddy’s 2 has a great trailer and we talk about the intrinsic impossibility that is pure NOPE.

The Week In Geek

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