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Thursday, November 30, 2017

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The 25 Essential Anime Films for True Fans

Posted: 29 Nov 2017 06:08 PM PST

Anime has been pushing cinematic boundaries and telling a variety of stories for decades. Many anime fans stick to syndicated series, but the realm of film harbors some of the best examples of the artform. There are numerous movies to chose from, but the movies on this list are all a must-see for true anime fans to watch. Whether it’s for historical purposes, uniqueness in storytelling and/or animation, superb quality, or a mixture of all of the above.

These are 25 essential anime movies for a true fan.

Barefoot Gen (1983)

Japan has the horrific distinction of being the only nation that had an atomic weapon used against it. Japanese culture learned to deal with this horrific event through its fiction. Other than GodzillaBarefoot Gen might be the best response to this dark historical event. The anime movie follows the life of young Gen Nakaoka and his family in the days leading up to and after the bombing of Hiroshima. It’s a heartbreaking, gut-churning, and necessary piece of anime history that is as touching as it is ghastly.

Fist of the North Star (1986)

Anime gained a reputation for focusing on over-the-top violence in the 1980s and Fist of the North Star is a big reason why. This 1986 film condenses a large chunk of the 1984 anime series and gives you a greatest hits version of the tale. The story focuses on Kenshiro, a skilled warrior who wanders a post-apocalyptic world. It’s delightfully vicious and unabashedly gory in a cartoonishly fun way. It was also immensely important in showcasing to American audiences that Japanese animation was not always kiddie fare.

Neo Tokyo & Robot Carnival (1987)

The anime anthology is a storied tradition. When it comes to picking the absolute best of the bunch, Neo Tokyo and Robot Carnival stand above the rest for sheer creativity and diversity. They are sci-fi focused celebrations of animation that bring together multiple animators and directors at the top of their game. These are also important as they were some of the earliest anime content shown for adults on American television. Specifically, “The Running Man” segment aired on MTV’s Liquid Television and Robot Carnival premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel.

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (1987)

This influential sci-fi epic tells the story of Shirotsugh Lhadatt, a young man who dreams of being the first of his people to venture into space. Unfortunately, the two nations of this Earth are teetering on the brink of full-scale war. This feature marks the cinematic debut of powerhouse anime studio Gainax and takes some serious inspiration from Star Wars. The Wings of Honneamise is a gorgeous, thrilling, and moving film that showcases just how much anime can equal or even surpass live-action filmmaking.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Roger Ebert called Grave of the Fireflies one of the best and most powerful war films ever made. How’s that for a recommendation? It tells the story of two siblings and their attempt to survive a war-torn Japan during the last few months of World War II. It’s a haunting film that balances beauty with genuine peril and devastating tragedy. But, it all ends with a stroke of optimism that is sure to leave you crying. The animation from Studio Ghibli is one of their best. The movie has been remade twice into live-action features but neither of them has managed to capture the magic of the original.

Akira (1988)

No other anime movie has had quite the impact of Akira. This cyberpunk nightmare exploded into the culture and has never really left. The story follows a group of street punk teens who get caught up with a government program involving psychokinetic powers. From there, the movie spirals into the madness of revolution and the phantasmagorical concept of apocalypse. It’s impossible to overstate the influence Akira has had in popular fiction. It was also one of the first anime feature films to make a splash in Western culture and present the art form as something truly unique.

Ninja Scroll (1993)

Much like Fist of the North StarNinja Scroll provides the viewer fantastical violence with a sense of gleeful debauchery. The plot follows swordsman-for-hire Jubei as he hunts down eight powerful ninjas who seek to overthrow the ruling power of the land. It’s a threadbare story but it’s all in service of dynamic and awesomely ridiculous fight scenes. Ninja Scroll isn’t full of tons of philosophy or ruminations on the human condition. But, it does excel in fist-pumping excitement in ways other similar anime movies struggle with.

Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Other than AkiraGhost in the Shell might be the most influential sci-fi anime film of all time. It was a huge inspiration for the Wachowski’s when they created The Matrix. The film centers around Motoko Kusanagi, a special operative in search of a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master. Action and design are at their peak in Ghost in the Shell, and the top-notch animation only helps sell the believability and paranoia of this futuristic world. Ignore the 2017 live-action version and make this a priority if you haven’t already seen it.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion (1997)

This one takes some explaining since it’s not exactly a welcoming film for newcomers. After the end of the highly successful series Neon Genesis Evangelion, this feature film attempted to present a more straightforward ending to the series as opposed to the interpretive finale to the show. So, while it does require seeing the series (which you absolutely should), it still has incredible merit as a standalone feature. The End of Evangelion is a stunning display of animation’s potential as well as a thoughtful deconstruction of popular anime tropes like mechas and fantasy. Don’t miss this one.

Perfect Blue (1997)

Anime tends to lean into realms of fantasy, but Perfect Blue blends that approach with psychological horror. It tells the tale of Mima Kirigoe, a retired singer who decides to pursue acting. She becomes the victim of a stalker and her perception of reality begins to disintegrate. Perfect Blue is a harrowing and uncomfortable examination of celebrity and our obsession with blending fiction into our real lives. It’s not an easy watch but it’s an effective one. It also made a significant impact on filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, who has cited it as an influence for his films Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan.

Dead Leaves (2004)

The visual tropes of anime can sometimes put off viewers who feel like all anime movies look the same. That’s where Dead Leaves comes in. It’s a pop art assault of vivid colors and comic book imagery. The story isn’t too concerned with complexity; Retro and Pandy wake up on Earth with no recollection of who they are. They go on a crime spree but are caught and sent to a maximum security prison on the moon. Dead Leaves is more style than substance, but that style is cranked all the way to 11 and it’s a blast. If you like gonzo fare like FLCL or RedlineDead Leaves needs to be the next anime you watch.

Paprika (2006)

Perfect Blue director Satoshi Kon returns to this list with one of the most dazzling visual anime films ever made. Paprika centers around the idea that a device will allow you to view people’s dreams, and there are certain doctors utilizing this device to perform “dream therapy.” It’s a psychedelic mood piece that offers up some of the most striking imagery ever put into an anime. Many will point to Inception as “ripping off” Paprika, but this anime movie is in a league of its own. Accept no substitutes.

Your Name (2016)

This recent entry ranks because of its enormous reception in its homeland. It’s the highest-grossing anime film in the history of Japan. It’s a seemingly simple story that revolves around a boy and a girl who swap bodies. There is plenty of comedy and heart to wring out of this premise, but Your Name goes beyond that and becomes something very special. Read our review and check out the unbelievable phenomenon.

Basically Everything by Hayao Miyazaki (1979 – 2013)

hayao miyazaki anime

When compiling this list, the hardest decision was which films by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki were going to make the cut. It was impossible so I decided to just throw in every one of his feature directorial efforts — excluding Conan the Future Boy which is good but not essential — because those 11 movies are basically the anime equivalent of the Disney canon. If you need a top three, I recommend Spirited AwayPrincess Mononoke and My Neighbor Totoro for a good start.

But really, you can’t go wrong with any Miyazaki movie. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a fantasy epic that will leave you breathless. Ponyo is a treat for the eyes. The Castle of Cagliostro is one of the best animated adventure films ever made. The Wind Rises is a thought-provoking meditation that will tug at your heartstrings. If you do nothing but watch Miyazaki films, you’re still doing anime right.

Which anime films do you think are essential? Let us know @getfandom or tell me directly (I picked them all!).

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The post The 25 Essential Anime Films for True Fans appeared first on Fandom powered by Wikia.

Avengers: Where the Heroes Stand Before ‘Infinity War’

Posted: 29 Nov 2017 01:35 PM PST

The Avengers: Infinity War trailer dropped today and we are still shaking! Thanos is on Earth! There are so many heroes! Spidey has a new suit! Bucky has his arm back! We have so many questions — but first, let’s take a look at where certain heroes were before Thanos invaded Earth.

Give This Man a Shield

Last seen in 'Captain America: Civil War.'

Arguably the coolest moment from the trailer was Black Panther saying “Give this man a shield,” to Captain America. Well, there were A LOT of cool moments, but this one was amazing, especially considering where Cap last left his signature accessory.

We last saw Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, in his third solo film, Captain America: Civil War. In his final stand-off against Tony Stark, Cap buried his shield into Tony’s chest, thus deactivating Tony’s Iron Man suit. Cap pulled his shield out of Stark’s armor and went to pick up Bucky, who was badly wounded and missing his arm. Tony, however, told Cap that he wasn’t worthy of carrying the shield, since his father made it (and Bucky killed his father). Cap dropped the shield on the ground and left with Bucky. Ouch.

At the end of the film, Cap rescued Scott, Sam, Wanda, and Clint from General Ross’ “anti-Avenger” containment prison and sent a cell phone to Tony, “in case you need us.” Cap then put Bucky into cryosleep in Wakanda, with the help of Black Panther. Vibranium comes from Wakanda and was used to build Cap’s first shield. Whether or not he’ll get another shield made out of that material remains to be seen.

Bucky With the Good Arm

In the trailer, James Barnes AKA Bucky, is running with Captain America and a group of warriors from Wakanda. Cap is leading the charge with Black Widow, Black Panther and Okoye at his side. Hulk and the Wakandans are behind them. Bucky is sporting a sweet new arm. Bucky first lost his arm in Captain America: The First Avenger. Hydra built him a new one and called him the Winter Solider. Sadly, Tony Stark ripped off that metal arm in Civil War.

Judging from the post-credit scene in Civil War, Bucky and Cap have been recuperating in Wakanda. The Wakandans must have found a way to deprogram Bucky and build him a new arm. Based on the trailer, his new arm is slimmer, sleeker and a darker shade of metal. It would be rad if his arm was remade with vibranium, like Cap’s original (and hopefully new) shield.

War Machine Flies Again

He knew any mission could be his last.

In addition to Hulk and co., Cap is not flying solo. Both Falcon and War Machine can be seen flying above the group. The last time we saw Colonel James Rhodes AKA War Machine, he was recovering from a spinal injury on the Avengers training base at the end of Civil War. If you recall, he was shot out of the sky by Vision‘s blast. While this was an accident, is almost cost Rhode his life.

Romanoff, a Blonde?

Undercover again?

Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow. She is always a mystery. We currently don’t know her whereabouts, which might be why she dyed her hair blonde. While she was originally fighting on Tony Stark’s team in Civil War, in the end she chose to let Cap and Bucky go. Tony warned her that Ross knew what she did. Did that decision put her in contempt of the Sokovia Accords? Did she have to go on the run from General Ross? It’s possible that, since she’s on the run from Ross, she cut and dyed her hair and has assumed another identity in Avengers: Infinity War.

Say Hello to the Iron Spider

He's ready to be an Avenger.

The last time we saw Peter Parker AKA Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming, he was asked to make a choice: go public with his identity and become an Avenger, or stay anonymous and go back to school. Peter chose school, like the good boy that he is, but in doing so, he passed on a wicked new Spidey suit designed by Tony Stark.

In the Avengers: Infinity War trailer, Peter is wearing the suit. Either Tony gives it to him anyway, or, they reach a compromise. Perhaps Tony lets Peter stay in school AND become an Avenger. Either way, he looks RAD.

Like Father, Like Son

Now he really is the 'Son of Odin.'

If you saw Thor: Ragnarok, you know that Thor lost his eye to Hela. It was a painful, shocking moment, but it also made sense, since his father, Odin, also lost an eye to a great enemy.

In the Avengers: Infinity War trailer, Thor is picked up by a group of familiar faces: the Guardians of the Galaxy. He humorously asks, “who the hell are you guys,” which is a perfect greeting for the Guardians. If you’re wondering why Thor is in space alone and not on the Asgardian ship, the next section might tell us why.

Loki Finally Gets the Tesseract

Avengers-infinity-war-tesseract-loki
Loki with the Tesseract -- which he clearly nicked from his dad's gaff.

The last time we saw Loki, he was fleeing Asgard in the wake of its destruction. He joined his brother Thor, Heimdall, Valkyrie and the surviving Asgardians on board the refugee ship.

If you saw Thor: Ragnarok, you would know that Loki had an opportunity to take the Tesseract from Odin’s vault just before Asgard fell. While we didn’t see him grab it, we all know that he did. SO. Where does this leave our trickster prince? Now he can finally give Thanos the Tesseract, which of course, was his goal in the first Avengers movie. What a way to bring everything full circle. We even see Thanos put the blue stone into his gauntlet, so we know Loki surrenders it in the film. Doesn’t he ever learn?

There are also a few other characters to catch up with, specifically the group that Cap broke out of prison in Civil War, like Wanda, Scott, Sam and Clint. We do see Wanda in the trailer, twice, first with Vision (who looks human, WTH?) and with Cap, when Black Panther mentions the shield. We don’t see Ant-Man in the trailer, perhaps his role is bigger in Avengers 4? And Clint aka Hawkeye? He might be on house arrest with his family, but we know he suits up at some point with a new uniform and a sweet mohawk. We can’t wait to see the film!

Avengers: Infinity War hits screens in the UK on April 27, 2018 and in the US on May 4, 2018.

The post Avengers: Where the Heroes Stand Before ‘Infinity War’ appeared first on Fandom powered by Wikia.

5 Games We Want to See at PlayStation Experience 2017

Posted: 29 Nov 2017 01:11 PM PST

For the last three years, Sony has treated its fans to a pre-holiday treat: a two-day fan festival dedicated to all things PlayStation. Next week, the fourth PlayStation Experience promises to be a gala of the most anticipated games coming to Sony's gaming ecosystem.

Each year the show opens with a keynote. Here, new games and release dates on ones we already know about are revealed. Here is our wishlist for this year's PlayStation Experience show:

Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077

The Witcher developer CD Projekt Red has been incubating its futuristic role-playing game for several years now. Cyberpunk 2077 was announced back in 2012. It will take place in an open-world city for players to navigate using what appears to be cyborg implants that help you understand and experience the emotions of other characters.

CD Projekt recently began opening up more on the status of the game, and with The Witcher trilogy firmly behind us, we're hoping they'll say more. We didn't see Cyberpunk 2077 at E3, Gamescom, or any other trade shows this year. So, maybe, the PlayStation Experience will be the place.

Death Stranding

This is another game that has been lurking in the shadows since its announcement a year and a half ago. From lauded Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima, Death Stranding featuring a star-studded cast, including The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus and man of many roles Mads Mikkelsen. We know very little about what this game actually is. The few trailers we do have world-building for the title make little to no sense.

Kojima has a tendency to take his time when making games. However, we're hoping Death Stranding is further along than we may think. With such an incredible slew of talent behind it, it's hard not to already be excited.

Dreams

Dreams

Okay, so we know Dreams will be at the PlayStation Experience. But we had to include it anyway. It's been a long time since we've seen Media Molecule's in-development project. Dreams is a sandbox game focusing on player creation and sharing user-generated content. We've seen trailers in which players create puppets and make them dance, or bring to life old men to play piano and polar bears to slide down snowy banks.

Dreams looks unlike anything we've seen so far in the current landscape of video games. Technology like 4K, virtual reality, and motion controls constantly being refined. We're excited to see where a game like Dreams can take us with it.

final-fantasy-7-remake-11-cloud

Final Fantasy VII Remake

It was impossible not to include the Final Fantasy VII Remake on this list. So, where is it?! The game was announced in a mic-drop moment during Sony's 2015 E3 press conference. Since then we've gotten a trailer, some footage — and that's it.

Rumors have swirled that the game will be released episodically, or that it will be a narrative-only retelling without the weird and wonderful side quests and exploration that made the original Final Fantasy VII so special. But none of this has been officially confirmed. Only time will tell. Hopefully, Square Enix will cap off an excellent 2017 with a release date for this hotly anticipated title.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption II

Confirmation of a sequel to Red Dead Redemption set the gaming world on fire. Currently, all we have for Red Dead Redemption II is a brief trailer that doesn't say much about the story or content, and a release window of the first half of 2018.

Don't get us wrong, we're happy to get what we can when it comes to Red Dead. However, we want to know more about the story, the new protagonist. We want to know just what kind of mischief we'll be getting up to in the wild west. And multiplayer, can't forget about that! Rockstar Games' stellar commitment to continually pushing new content for Grand Theft Auto Online makes us hopeful for Red Dead's multiplayer. Sony tends to cut exclusivity deals for some types of content. We're hoping they've done one here and we'll see it at the PlayStation Experience.

Be sure to stay tuned to FANDOM next week on December 8 through 10 for hands-on impressions from the show

The post 5 Games We Want to See at PlayStation Experience 2017 appeared first on Fandom powered by Wikia.

Who Has the Infinity Stones? (Updated with ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Trailer)

Posted: 29 Nov 2017 11:25 AM PST

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is tied together by two things – Robert Downey, Jr. and the Infinity Stones. This article sadly only focuses on one of them. Over the course of fifteen separate films, the Infinity Stones have slowly been introduced, building up their importance.

With the arrival of the first Infinity War trailer, Thanos finally takes center stage. He’s coming for the Infinity Stones and if the trailer is anything to go by, the Avengers and their allies are going to have a hell of time stopping him.

What Are The Infinity Stones?

Before creation itself, there were six singularities. Then the universe exploded into existence, and the remnants of these systems were forged into concentrated ingots… Infinity Stones.

In Guardians of the Galaxy, the Collector describes the creation of the Infinity Stones. They are relics that pre-date the universe itself, and each is immensely powerful and destructive. In the Marvel comics, they are referred to as “Infinity Gems” and while they have much the same powers, they are different colors from their Cinematic Universe counterparts. When used together, the Gems are much more powerful. After acquiring all of the Gems and placing them in the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos used its power to destroy half the universe in an effort to win Death‘s love.

In story terms, the Infinity Stones in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are the driving force behind uniting the Earth-based heroes like the Avengers, Doctor Strange, and Spider-Man with the galaxy-based heroes such as the Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor. In Avengers: Infinity War due for release in 2018, the majority of the heroes from the MCU will unite to face the threat of Thanos.

Where Are They Now?

As we know, there are six Infinity Stones – Space, Reality, Power, Mind, Time, and Soul. So far, five of them have appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe while we eagerly await the reveal of the final Stone. So which Stones are already in play?

The Space Stone, aka the Tesseract, aka The Blue One

First Appeared in: Captain America: The First Avenger

The Space Stone is currently contained within the Tesseract. During World War II, the Red Skull harnessed its energies to power advanced weapons for HYDRALoki later used the power of the Tesseract to open a portal to allow the Chitauri to invade Earth. The invasion was repulsed by the Avengers, and the Tesseract was given to Thor to secure in Asgard’s vaults. During the events of Thor: Ragnarok, Loki is implied to have pocketed the Tesseract while triggering Ragnarök in an effort to defeat Hela, the Goddess of Death. As the Infinity War trailer shows, Loki definitely took the Tesseract from the vault and the Space Stone later shows up in Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet.

The Reality Stone, aka the Aether, aka The Red One

First Appeared in: Thor: The Dark World

The Reality Stone is contained within the Aether. Thousands of years ago, the Dark Elf Malekith tried to destroy the Nine Realms with the Aether. He was stopped by Odin’s father, Bor and the Aether was hidden away as it could not be destroyed. The Aether was accidentally rediscovered by Jane Foster, which brought Malekith out of hibernation and he once more attempted to destroy the Nine Realms until defeated by Thor. Rather than keep the Aether, the Asgardians sent it to the Collector’s museum because they believed it was unwise to have two Infinity Stones in close proximity to each other.

The Power Stone, aka the Orb, aka The Purple One

First Appeared in: Guardians of the Galaxy

The Power Stone resides inside the Orb. Thanos tasks Ronan the Accuser with retrieving the Orb but when the Kree learns of its true nature, he betrays Thanos and takes the power of the stone for himself. He tries to destroy the planet Xandar, but is defeated by the Guardians of the Galaxy. They entrust the Orb to the care of the Nova Corps. In the Infinity War trailer, Thanos is seen with the Power Stone embedded in the Infinity Gauntlet so it obviously does not remain in the Nova Corps possession for much longer.

The Mind Stone, aka Vision’s favorite accessory, aka The Yellow One

First Appeared in: The Avengers

The Mind Stone was originally held within the scepter Loki used when he attempted to conquer Earth with an army of Chitauri. It is responsible for giving both the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver their superhuman powers due to experiments carried out by HYDRA. The Mind Stone was instrumental in the creation of Vision, an artificial lifeform. The stone currently sits in his forehead, and grants him the ability to fire energy blasts. In one of the Infinity War trailer’s most memorable moments, Vision is shown being held down screaming while someone tries to forcibly remove the Mind Stone.

The Time Stone, aka the Eye of Agamotto, aka The Green One

First Appeared in: Doctor Strange

The Time Stone is encased within the Eye of Agamotto, a powerful magical relic guarded by the Masters of the Mystic Arts. Doctor Strange mastered the power of the Time Stone to defeat Kaecilius and the powerful entity known as Dormammu, ruler of the Dark Dimension. Because of its power and the fact that Doctor Strange had still not fully mastered his power, the Eye was returned to the library within Kamar-taj. By the time Thor: Ragnarok rolls around, Doctor Strange is apparently wearing the Eye of Agamotto on a day to day basis, indicating that he has fully mastered his powers. Doctor Strange is still rocking it in the Infinity War trailer.

Which Stone Is Left? (The Orange One)

The last Infinity Stone unaccounted for is the Soul Stone. Where it is or who has it is currently unrevealed. The only thing that we know for certain is that it is orange.

There is only one standalone film – Black Panther – left to be released before Avengers: Infinity War. Given the title of the film, we can be reasonably sure that it will feature all of the Infinity Stones. The trailer shows us that Thanos gets at least two in the Infinity Gauntlet (Space and Power), with one more (Mind) apparently heading his way. When this article was originally published, we were of the opinion that the final, elusive Infinity Stone would have made its appearance in Thor: Ragnarok. However, that turned out to be incorrect.

So Where Is It?

Ever since Marvel began incorporating the Infinity Stones into their Cinematic Universe, theories about the locations of the stones were bandied around. Some fans correctly guessed that Loki’s Scepter held the Mind Stone, and that the Eye of Agamotto would also be the receptacle for one of them, although opinion was split about whether it was the Time Stone or Soul Stone.

Is the Soul Stone the Source of Wakanda’s Wealth and Power?

Is the foundation of Wakandan society based on the Soul Stone?

While Black Panther will be a standalone film, it will also most likely serve as a partial lead-in to Infinity War. An obligatory post-credit sequence will probably be dedicated to some type of Infinity War set-up – but what if there is more to it? So far, everything we’ve seen about Black Panther suggests it will be a self-contained film (although do we seriously believe that there will be no cameo from Cap or Bucky?). But with the reveal that Thor: Ragnarok had no Soul Stone in sight, could Marvel have been planning to debut the Soul Stone in Black Panther all along?

The country of Wakanda is a technological marvel, hidden from the world. At the same time, the culture of Wakanda appears to be deeply spiritual. The country is also the only known source of the rare metal vibranium – the same metal that Captain America’s shield is made of. Something in the country’s history spurred its technological and economic growth. Captain America: The First Avenger showed what could be achieved by harnessing the power of the Space Stone. Could the Soul Stone have been harnessed in a similar manner to provide the foundation for all of Wakanda’s achievements?

The climax of the Infinity War trailer shows a large battle between Thanos’ forces and Wakandan warriors supported by various Avengers. Of course, Thanos attacking Wakanda could be for purely tactical reasons, or as a result of a number of Avengers being present in the country. But above all else, Thanos is after the Infinity Stones so where better to strike than a place where the Soul Stone is being kept?

Previously Published: 

Heimdall Might Have It (Could Still Be True)

Check out the gem in Heimdall's armor – have we already seen the Soul Stone in the MCU?

One of the most popular theories is that the Asgardian Heimdall has the Soul Stone. Heimdall has the power to see almost anything in the known universe, and states in Thor: The Dark World that he “can see Nine Realms and ten trillion souls.” Of course, he could just be being poetic in his choice of words, but look at his eyes. They are the same color as the Soul Stone. Want more fuel for the theory? In The Dark World, Heimdall’s armor features a stylised image of Ygddrasil, the World Tree. Atop the design is a single orange gem set into the armor. Does the Soul Stone give Heimdall his unique powers?

Another piece of evidence lies in Thor’s vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Under the influence of the Scarlet Witch, and later the Water of Sights, Thor sees Heimdall without his signature orange eyes. His fellow Asgardian tells him that they are all dead, and that Thor led them to Hel. Given that in Norse mythology Ragnarok is the end of the world and the trailer for the upcoming film shows destruction coming to Asgard, could Heimdall be killed for the Soul Stone in his possession?

There is evidence that discounts this theory, however. In the post-credits sequence of The Dark World, Volstagg and Sif take the Aether to the Collector for safe keeping. They do this because they already have the Tesseract in Asgard’s vault, and believe it is unwise to have two Infinity Stones together. This statement would seem to discredit the theory that Heimdall possessed the Soul Stone. Of course, it could be a closely guarded secret and by the end of the film, Odin has been secretly replaced by Loki as king of Asgard.

Update: Heimdall played a minor but crucial role during the events of Thor: Ragnarok, but did not reveal that he was in possession of the Soul Stone. Of course, he did not reveal that he wasn’t, either. With Heimdall at Thor’s side, the theory that he holds the last Infinity Stone is still possible.

Or Maybe Hela? (Probably Not)

thor ragnarok cate blanchett hela crushing thor's hammer

Thor: Ragnarok will introduce the character of Hela, the Asgardian goddess of death and ruler of Hel and Nifelheim. Her entrance into the Marvel Cinematic Universe already has severe ramifications judging by the trailer: she destroys Mjolnir, and brings ruin to Asgard. But could Hela hold the Soul Stone? As the goddess of death, she oversees the souls of the dead, making it fitting if she is its guardian.

There is also another angle to consider – Hela could be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s incarnation of Death. The MCU has never been shy about combining and changing elements from their comic universe to fit a better film narrative. Just look at the Tesseract/Space Stone itself which combines the Space Gem with the Cosmic Cube.

Why is this important? Because Death is one of the objects of Thanos’ desire. He fell in love with her, and part of his approach to winning her affection was presenting her with souls she could rule. In true Thanos style, this meant killing a lot of people. If the character of Hela is merged with Death, she could form an alliance with Thanos. If she already has the Stone, then Thanos is one step closer to his goal. If Heimdall has the Stone, then Hela invading Asgard and killing him for possession of the Stone is a likely outcome.

Update: Given that Hela seemingly died (comic characters never truly die, so there is always a chance) at the climax of Thor: Ragnarok, it is unlikely that she was in possession of the Soul Stone. Of course, being the Goddess of Death might give her a second chance but it appears this theory is as dead as she (probably) is.

Third Contender, The Grandmaster

Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok.

Set to debut in Thor: Ragnarok, the Grandmaster will be involved in events that eventually lead to Thor and the Hulk battling each other in gladiatorial combat on the planet Sakaar. While we do not know much about his role in the film yet, we can speculate that he is another candidate for possession of the Soul Stone. In the comics, the Grandmaster is one of the Elders of the Universe, and for a time possessed the Mind Gem. It would be a simple matter of adjusting his storyline and giving him control of the Soul Stone.

Update: The Grandmaster holding the Soul Stone was always a long shot, but it is still not outside the realms of possibility. Let’s face it – his Melt Stick had an orange orb at the top …

NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect new information about Avengers: Infinity War.

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‘Hearthstone’: How Blizzard’s Smallest Team Made One of its Biggest Successes

Posted: 29 Nov 2017 10:25 AM PST

For many years, Blizzard earned itself a reputation for being a company that didn't like taking risks. With its all-conquering World Of Warcraft seeping its way into into almost every facet of pop culture from 2004 onwards, the developer seemingly decided to rest on its laurels.

With Blizzard doubling down on its trusty trio of Warcraft, Diablo and Starcraft, the studio spent almost a decade churning out solid sequels to the same franchises. While each new entry was still good, slowly, this once pioneering company had become the one thing no creator wants to be: predictable.

Luckily for fans though, World Of Warcraft's once flourishing money tree slowly began to wither. With stiff free-to-play competition rearing its ugly head and many gamers no longer wanting to pay WOW's hefty subscription fee, Blizzard needed another hit, and it needed it fast.

"The initial concept for Hearthstone was less about a game and more about a team," reveals Hearthstone's Art Director, Ben Thompson.

"Up until the formation of the [Hearthstone] team, while working on other games we always experienced moments of  ' gosh, you know what would be a cool game?’ [But] when talking about [our idea] we'd realize that we didn't really have the resources [or] the manpower to make them."

The high-ups at Blizzard decided to change this. Instead of its typically massive studios, the company instead decided to put together an experimental team of 15, tasking them with creating concepts for bold new game ideas.

"The team was built as a generalist, very small, very reactive team that could tackle these new ideas as they came through and really start to figure out what it would take to get a game out in a very small amount of time,” Thompson says.

Karazhan board

“As it turns out, the very first game we tried this team out on was… a digital card game. Immediately, it felt like this could be something really awesome, and we started adding more people to the team."

 Despite the team being incredibly excited about their vision for a digital card game, not everyone at Blizzard was convinced. "Internally there were those who felt ' Ah, I dunno, a card game?'” says Thompson.

Thankfully, they had a few powerful friends on their side.

"We've got pictures of (Blizzard co founder and President) Mike Morhaime And (other co founder Frank Pearce) huddled up on the carpet plying card games together and really enjoying that social time at 2 or 3 am while working on other games!" Thompson says with a cheeky smile. With the enthusiastic approval of the companies head honchos, it seemed like the right thing to do. " It turns out that [Card games] are very much in our blood at Blizzard.. in our DNA as gamers.”

But what should the theme of this card game be? For the team, this new IP’s setting was a no brainer.

"World of Warcraft was chosen because there are so many different stories to tell in Azeroth and so many different ways to tell them," says Thompson. " There's the epic and the serious, the charming and the whimsical and everything in between."

Once they were given the go-ahead, Thompson quickly assumed the role of Art Director on Hearthstone. Now that they had their bosses approval, they just had the small matter of figuring out how to make a card game work digitally.

"We understood that as games go, Collectible card games have a tendency to be very overwhelming,” he says. “They have a lot of sub rule sets to them… lots of numbers… they're really the hardest games to get into arguably, even for gamers.

“So we figured if we're going to make a digital version of a card game, is there a way we can take care of a lot of the numbers behind the scenes?"

new Hearthstone expansion

Opting to make Hearthstone a highly visual-orientated experience, the team decided to feature flair over figures and statistics. With the team designing beautifully animated attacks and keeping the numbers to a minimum, they quickly realised they'd created a new breed of accessible and addictive card game.

 Unsurprisingly, in the wake of Hearthstone's massive success blizzard's other game ideas quickly fell to the wayside.

"In a funny way the team has been both a failure and a wild success as well!” Thompson says. “This small agile team went from 15 to 80 plus and now as a result we're now doing our tenth expansion for the game. It's been an awesome ride…and we've been very humbled by the response to the game.”

“I think that Hearthstone has been so successful because of the passion of the team that was involved at the time and because of what that team has gone on to become,” he adds. “At this point in time I know Blizzard and we have been very happy to see how that's all scoped out.”

So, does this mean that the Hearthstone team might be allowed to bring other exciting new game concepts to life?

“Going forward… it's hard to say. I think what the response has garnered in terms of this team and other teams…” Thompson exchanges a quick glance with Blizzard's PR, suggesting that he shouldn't give too much away about other teams.

"I know that this team has got its hands full when it comes to Hearthstone” he continues,  "and everything it's going to take to continue to make this as compelling an experience as it has been. But I certainly think that the people we have surrounded ourselves with are up to the challenge and I look forward to working with each and every one of them on future sets to come"

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8 Fist-Pump Moments From the ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Trailer

Posted: 29 Nov 2017 08:30 AM PST

The hotly anticipated Avengers: Infinity War trailer has finally landed – making us audibly gasp no less than EIGHT times. Here's every time we noisily drew in air while watching.

1. Wong and Doctor Strange

Avengers-infinity-war-wong-strange
So Wong on so many levels.

Following a shot of a downcast and brooding Tony Stark and a bewildered Bruce Banner lying spread-eagled shirtless in a pit, looking like he's crashed in Hulk-form through the ceiling of the Sanctum Sanctorum, comes the first shot to draw a gasp. Wong and Strange stand there, seemingly peering down at Banner, with Wong having spun fiery discs using Eldritch Magic. Awesome enough. But then they look at each other and… SHIVERS.

2. A Tender Moment

Avengers-infinity-war-scarlet-witch-vision
It's all about that Mind Stone.

Next up, there's a shot of Scarlet Witch and Vision tenderly touching each other's faces. They both look very serious — is this a romantic moment or something more sinister? It's certainly the first time we've seen him without red skin, which is interesting in itself. Either way, the focus is on the golden glowing Mind Stone embedded in Vision's forehead. The film's villain, Thanos, needs this for the Infinity Gauntlet, which, when it contains all six stones, will make him all-powerful. Later in the trailer, we see an attempt to claim the Mind Stone — and Vision does NOT look comfortable.

3. Spidey Senses

Avengers-infinity-war-peter-parker
Spidey senses in full effect.

We defy you not to find your hair standing on end in EXACTLY the same way when you see Peter Parker's arm hairs bristle on the school bus. It comes in on our gasp-o-meter just ahead of seeing him in the Iron Spider suit a bit later on. We're loving seeing Peter growing into his superhero role and mastering his powers in this way — Spidey senses are a key strength of the Spider-Man we know and love. It looks like the Peter Parker we saw in the standalone Spider-Man: Homecoming may well have come of age in Infinity War. Just about…

4. Loki Handing Over the Tesseract

Avengers-infinity-war-tesseract-loki
Loki with the Tesseract -- which he clearly nicked from his dad's gaff.

What we suspected of Loki in Thor: Ragnarok seems to have come to fruition in Infinity War. Remember the moment we saw him hesitate in front of the Tesseract in Odin's trophy room? Well, it seems he did take it. The cuboid Tesseract holds the Space Stone. In the trailer, he seems to hand it over to Thanos. Could it be that he's been working for the evil overlord all this time?

5. Black Panther Facing Off Against a Lizard

Avengers-infinity-war-black-panther
It's got four arms and is hideous, but it's no match for a slick and sleek Black Panther.

This is one fight we can't wait to see more of. Black Panther, fully suited, grappling with a four-armed man-sized lizard? HELLO. Now, THIS is what we signed up for. It’s one of Thanos’s genetically engineered Outrider henchmen, incidentally.

6. Thanos Adding the Space Stone

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Thanos adding the Space Stone to the Infinity Gauntlet.

Seeing Thanos drop the Space Stone into place next to the Power Stone in the Infinity Gauntlet is epic. Just before, we see an attempted extraction of the Mind Stone, suggesting he's now got at least three of the six. We don't see the thumb chamber fully in the trailer, so we don't know yet whether this is filled or not. The Soul Stone has yet to make an appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but Black Panther's home of Wakanda could be where we find it.

7. War Machine!

Avengers-infinity-war
Come on, War Machine!

Who doesn't love Don Cheadle's War Machine? Seeing him up and about — and flying in full battle mode no less — suggests he's either fully healed after his Civil War ordeal or the suit is able to support him, allowing him to fight despite his injuries. He’s definitely looking badass.

8. Thor Meets the Guardians

Avengers-infinity-war-guardians
The Guardians greet Thor.

And just when you thought things couldn't get any more exhilarating, up pops Thor with his bad eye, enquiring: "Who the hell are you guys?" to the assembled Guardians of the Galaxy. Groot is all grown up, and Mantis offers a welcoming wave. The Marvel titans meet, and we’re salivating for what’s to come.

Avengers: Infinity War hits screens in the UK on April 27, 2018 and in the US on May 4, 2018.

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The First ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Trailer Is Giving Us Goosebumps

Posted: 29 Nov 2017 05:29 AM PST

We still have to wait until May 4, 2018 to see the whole movie but we finally got our first extended look at Avengers: Infinity War.

Infinity War footage was dropped during the D23 panel though the clips were never shown to the public leaving fans with an aching in their hearts. But the hole in our hearts has finally been filled after the first full-length trailer was aired during Wednesday morning’s edition of Good Morning America.

Avengers: Infinity War and its yet untitled sequel, Avengers 4, will be Marvel’s most ambitious films yet. Classic characters like Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk and Hawkeye will be joined by the Guardians, Ant-Man, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther and more, as they try and stop Thanos from destroying the universe with the coveted Infinity Stones.

The official description for Avengers: Infinity War is as follows:

“As the Avengers and their allies have continued to protect the world from threats too large for any one hero to handle, a new danger has emerged from the cosmic shadows: Thanos. A despot of intergalactic infamy, his goal is to collect all six Infinity Stones, artifacts of unimaginable power, and use them to inflict his twisted will on all of reality. Everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment – the fate of Earth and existence itself has never been more uncertain.”

Avengers: Infinity War opens on May 4, 2018 and stars Robert Downey Jr.,Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Bettany, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Wong, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Tom Holland, Anthony Mackie and Josh Brolin.

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‘The Last Jedi’: When You Hear How They Treat Space Horses It Will Make You Sad

Posted: 29 Nov 2017 03:56 AM PST

There are plenty of new creatures that have been added to the Star Wars cinematic universe that we can't wait to meet. And the length of time we have to wait is shrinking by the hour – The Last Jedi hits screens in a matter of days. Some of these critters we've heard lots about – porgs most prominently. But never mind those fluffy little puffin-like creatures. And never mind the elegant-looking vulptex. What about the incredible space horse? It’s adorbs!

It's Not Called a Space Horse

The Last Jedi-Fathier-Space-Horse
A stabled space horse, or fathier.

Glimpsed in behind-the-scenes footage released at D23, and then again on the Star Wars Show, space horses – or fathiers to give them their proper name – are a horse-type animal used for competitive racing. They look like giant baby farm animals with the cutest puppy-dog eyes. The footage shows one in a stable.

However, they're apparently not treated very well by the wealthy residents of Canto Bight, the casino city where they're kept as racing stock. Neal Scanlan, who heads up Lucasfilm's creature workshop, told Empire magazine: "They're racing creatures, with bets placed upon them, and are subjected to slightly cruel treatment."

He also said that "fathiers have the power and majestic quality that one might find in a male lion and also beauty in their equine aspects".

The Last Jedi
Finn (John Boyega), seen here with Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), has an encounter with a fathier.

The fathier appears as a CG creature in wide shots, but the team created an actual tangible to-scale version for Finn's first encounter "so it was able to look over the stable door" and actor John Boyega "could touch and act with it."

According to makingstarwars.net, Finn and new character Rose Tico liberate a fathier which they flee on after running into trouble. It’s odds-on, then, that we can look forward to some serious fathier action in the new film. As for falling in love with this adorable fella, that’s a dead cert.

The Last Jedi is released in the UK on December 14 and in the US on December 15.

New ‘Last Jedi’ Creatures Get a Name, Could be More Important Than Porgs

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