Pics from the ‘Age of Ultron’ Set as Filming Begins

Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. are feeling the Marvel love as they begin filming the Avengers sequel.  Check out Ruffalo’s tweeted and Instagram’d pics…

 

First one is captioned, “Almost got her!!”

 

 

And, then of course, RDJ had to get in on the tweeting action:

“Lights, camera, assemble!”

 

Review -Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, “The Only Light in the Darkness”

image courtesy:  www.abc.go.com

image courtesy: http://www.abc.go.com

This week’s episode brings Ward home to the team, for better or (more likely) for worse. It also reunites Coulson with his great love, the Cellist. And reveals that Simmons is a true Whovian.

While pausing for a moment at the secret Providence base, the team is reunited with Ward. Ward has been a busy boy, raiding SHIELD’s assets with Garrett. But when Garrett’s people can’t access the hard-drive Skye downloaded from the Bus, Ward returns to get access… by any means necessary.

Coulson sets out to try to mop up some of the mess left by the SHIELD vs HYDRA smackdown. First on his list is chasing down an escaped prisoner named Marcus Daniels. Turns out that Daniels is obsessed with a certain cellist in Portland.

While Coulson carefully avoids contact with Audrey the Cellist (Amy Acker) and Fitz figures out how to stop Daniels, Skye is trying to get a bead on the rest of the escapees from the Fridge. May, meanwhile, decides to leave. And Ward spends his time alternately protecting his cover and prodding her to give him access to the hard-drive.

When Ward’s actions at the Fridge are almost exposed, he kills Koenig. Unfortunately for them both, Skye discovers his dirty deed. Putting two and two together, she now has to avoid the same fate.

She decides the best course of action is to play along with Ward, making him think she knows nothing. He takes her and the plane before Coulson and Co. return. What will Skye do next?

 

What Hit the Target

Patton Oswalt’s character, Koenig, turned out to be interestingly multi-faceted. Behind his humorous exterior was a true Agent of SHIELD. His serious, possibly scarier side peeked out ever-so-often in this and the previous episode in just the right amounts. Good job, Oswalt!

The MCU references were fast and furious in this episode, but they mostly felt pretty unforced and organic. For the second episode in a row, we have a Hulk reference or related character, which I hope helps fuel a return to the forefront for Mark Ruffalo’s fabulous Bruce Banner within the MCU.

How suddenly interesting Ward has become! I’m sure his fans aren’t a happy bunch right now, but I’m finally enjoying Brett Dalton’s performance and finding Ward to be intriguing. You can’t help but pay attention to his every move and word right now, hoping for some hint of explanation for what he’s done.

You know that Skye is my least favorite character, so I think you’ll appreciate that I really did kinda like her for a few minutes this week. Chloe Bennett’s performance as Skye reacts to her realization about Ward and subsequently plays him was really pretty well-done.

May’s mom! What a fantastic little scene. It’s a perfect combination of mom/daughter relationship and seasoned super-spies. That was probably my favorite scene in the episode. Once again, May steals the spotlight even though all the writers are focused on other characters.

 

image courtesy:  www.abc.go.com

image courtesy: http://www.abc.go.com

What Missed the Mark

Splitting up the team into two groups was such a thinly-disguised plot necessity. It was hardly given explanation and screamed obvious setup on the writers’ end.

Was it ever actually made clear that Daniels was a real threat to Audrey? I mean, yes, he killed a guy and yes, he had superhuman abilities to make lights go out… but he didn’t actually do anything particularly dangerous to her aside from stalking. And realistically, Coulson does a little of that too, ya know! Maybe Daniels just liked the music. Anyone think of that?

Skye made quite the leap of logic when she discovered Koenig’s body. Inside of about 5 minutes, she went from, ‘oh Ward, you’re such a good person, you just gotta believe in yourself more’ to ‘my wanna-be boyfriend must surely be a cold-blooded murderer’ without entertaining any other possibilities.

The Final Tally

The plotline involving the Cellist was a little bit of a letdown, and the villain of the week was drab and uninteresting. However, there was sufficient tension in the Providence base to keep the episode going. I was expecting them to keep Ward’s secret a bit longer, but given that we’re barreling toward the end of the season, I guess it had to be rushed a little. The good news about HYDRA’s evil doings is that it’s brought real interpersonal team conflict and better writing to much of these last episodes. And how could we not love an episode that introduces May’s mom!?

 

And, of course, the Quote of the Week:

“Marcus Daniels was an assistant at a physics lab where they were trying to harness the electrical power of something called ‘Dark Force’. Nothing ever goes wrong when you work with something called ‘Dark Force’.”

Review – Arrow, “The Man Under the Hood”

image courtesy:  www.cwtv.com

image courtesy: http://www.cwtv.com

Sorry for the late review, everyone! It couldn’t be helped. Hope you enjoy it!

After Deathstroke’s masterful manipulation of Team Arrow last week, they try to go on the offensive this week. It doesn’t work out entirely well.

Fearing Slade’s plans for the Mirakuru, Oliver and Company destroy Queen Consolidated’s research lab so he can’t get his hands on it. Slade, in turn, steals the Skeleton Key from Team Arrow and breaks into STAR Labs to steal another device he can use.

Laurel, having been informed that her ex is the Arrow, struggles with what she’s going to do with the information. She turns to her dad for advice. The Arrow, Lance tells her, is a symbol and a vital necessity, and he feels that he couldn’t ask the Arrow to do what he needs to do if Lance thought of the hero as a man. He doesn’t want to know who it is.

In the end, Laurel chooses not to do anything with her newfound knowledge except offer Oliver a little friendly support. She also figures out that Sara is the Arrow’s fighting buddy, but keeps that to herself as well.

Thea, meanwhile, is pretty pissed about having been lied to by Oliver (about the identity of her real father). There’s also that whole bit about her being the genetic offspring of mass murderers – which doesn’t make her feel particularly positive about her own future. She refuses to have anything to do with Moira or Oliver, even when it means risking them losing all their assets to Isabel Rochev. She eventually disappears to be alone with her thoughts.

When Team Arrow tracks down Deathstroke, Slade is building his army of Mirakuru-enhanced soldiers using Roy’s Mirakuru blook. Oliver rescues Roy, kills Isabel, and escapes. But Slade heals Isabel with his own Mirakuru and they set off with their new army.

Finally, on the island, Ivo tells Sara and Oliver that there’s a cure for the Mirakuru on the freighter. Then he asks them to kill him, which Oliver does.

 

What Hit the Target

Slade is still out-witting Team Arrow and I love it! He casually breaks into the Arrow Cave, then stays a step ahead of them during the STAR Labs theft and the Mirakuru soldiers plan. All the while, his distractions via Thea’s anger and Laurel’s confusion are working behind the scenes. I can’t give the writers enough credit, really, for managing to make Slade a worthy enemy and give him a worthy plan.

Laurel finally does something selfless and avoided turning Oliver and Sara’s secret into a Laurel pity-party! How refreshing. While this doesn’t fully rehab her character, it helps.

I’m torn about how I feel about Thea in this episode. While I get tired of Arrow‘s female characters managing to wallow in self-pity when things go awry, I do think that Thea has a bit of a good reason to be confused and angry. She was, I think, being melodramatic about Oliver not telling her, but she does have a point about her screwed-up parentage.

Will Isabel finally get interesting now that she’s been resurrected? I hope so! It’s sad that it’s taken the entire season to figure out what to do with her, but perhaps it will be ‘better late than never’. Ravager’s backstory with Deathstroke could make for an interesting dynamic.

Once again, Quentin Lance for the win! He’s morphed into a great part of Team Arrow this season and his perspective on the ‘man beneath the hood’ was beautiful and powerful.

image courtesy:  www.cwtv.com

image courtesy: http://www.cwtv.com

What Missed the Mark

The introduction of the characters from the Flash series was a little bit clumsy, although I’m not sure if there’s a graceful way to service another series in this manner. The characters themselves were plucky, but they and the mentions of other Flash characters was just obvious and dragged things a bit.

The revelation about Isabel’s background with the Queen family was also clumsy and appears to have been an afterthought. Interviews with those behind the show’s scenes have revealed that they really didn’t know what to do with Isabel mid-season, which is why she disappeared. I’m disappointed that her motivation was as simple and clichéd as ‘a woman scorned’.

The Final Tally

Slade continues his reign as Arrow‘s great enemy, providing excitement and surprise as we gear up for the end of the season. While the requisite Flash cameos weighed down the plot briefly and Thea whined a little bit excessively, neither really slowed things to down unnecessarily. Hopefully, Isabel’s character will be finally be on track, Roy’s story will advance, and Laurel will be returned to the main plotline. All in all, it’s a good week for recurring characters, but is still full of action and twists.

 

And finally, Felicity’s Quote of the Week:

“For the record, I hated her before we found she’s a super-villain.”

 

Stuff I’ve Never Read – “The Avengers” #167 thru #177

Guardians-of-the-GalaxyIn my quest to better know the Guardians of the Galaxy, I’ve been trolling the archives of the classic Marvel comics. And despite realizing that the upcoming movie is based on the 2008 team rather than the original group, I decided to continue to begin at the beginning.

In “The Avengers” #167 to #177, Marvel teams up the current roster of Avengers with the original team of Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians travel back through time while tracking the powerful enemy, Korvac. They make contact with the Avengers, seeking help when they realize that Korvac plans to change history.

It makes sense to team up the Guardians and the Avengers because they have a similar nature to their teams. Both teams are made up of disparate members, each using their own particular skill sets to help the team as a whole.

The downside to that mash-up is that these are really busy stories with some very full panels and pages. That’s what happens when you take half a dozen plus Avengers and stick them in a room with just as many Guardians.

Writer Jim Shooter and various artists valiantly try to juggle all the characters and the story, but there’s still a lot going on. Probably a bit too much.

Still, there’s some particularly beautiful and imaginative artwork and panel-work in the second half of issue #168, featuring a cosmic duel that goes on for several pages. And there are some fun inter-personal conflicts among both teams, which is always entertaining.

The final issue, #177, is pretty much completely filled with the final battle against Korvac. After a crazy, long war of superpowers, the battle only ends from two acts of great love. Well, that and one full-page beauty shot.

Next time, I am going to move on to some stories from the 2008 team. Hopefully that will be the correct version!

UPDATED: Mos Espa Being Swallowed by Desert

UPDATED 04/10/14: Wanna help? You can contribute to the preservation efforts here:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/save-mos-espa

 

ORIGINAL STORY: 10/30/13

If you want to visit Mos Espa, you’d better act fast!

As any Star Wars fan knows, Tatooine was created as an actual set for The Phantom Menace, in the far-flung desert of Tunisia. After the movies were completed, at the request of the government, the set was not torn down afterward.

And in the years since, these 10-20 half-completed, ramshackle buildings and false fronts have become what must be Tunisia’s strangest tourist attraction. Star Wars fans from all over the world bounce through the desert in 4-wheel-drives in order to worship at a shrine of the Star Wars saga.

However, the sand dunes have begun to reclaim Mos Espa. Scientists are studying what’s called a barchan, which is a sort of crescent-shaped sand dune that travels with wind erosion. The particular barchan that currently threatens Mos Espa has been travelling toward the set at a rate of 15 meters per year.

Unfortunately, an even larger barchan looms over the site as well, and scientist Ralph Lorenz believes that it will cover the set in about 80 years. Well, it will cover what wasn’t already destroyed by the current, smaller barchan dune.

The scientists studying it are actually excited that the dune is swallowing Mos Espa, because the buildings give them a reliable way to measure and learn about the movement of the sand.

There’s some hope that the nearby city of Tozeur will take some mitigation efforts to protect its tourism destination, beating back the sand. So far, though, nothing is being done.

As a Star Wars fan, I’m sad, of course. I hate to see it go without a fight. But some part of me is tickled at the idea of archaeologists in future generations digging up these strange ruins and wondering what kind of society lived in Mos Espa. What rituals, they will ask, did the natives perform with strange, nonfunctioning pieces of 90′s technology glued to cardboard fake walls?

It kinda makes me wonder if this hasn’t happened before? What if we’ve uncovered ancient Greek costume drama props and paraded them around in our museums thinking them real?

You have to wonder…

So, if you’re a Star Wars mega-fan and Tunisia is on your bucket list, you should consider moving up your plans. Because soon, Mos Espa really will only exist a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…