TV Review: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

It was inevitable, after all.

Given the billions Marvel’s Avengers movies (The Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Incredible Hulk–so far) have earned, it was only a matter of time before they decided a TV series would be a good idea. Tuesday, the same day Iron Man 3 was released on DVD, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered, starring Clark Gregg as the unflappable Agent Phil Coulson.

Wait a minute. Wasn’t Agent Coulson killed by Thor’s psychologically-damaged adopted brother Loki in The Avengers?

Well, yes…and no. Coulson was dead, very briefly–for a matter of seconds. But this is the Marvel universe–in the Marvel universe, as in soap operas, being dead isn’t as final as it is in real life. Marvel characters get do-overs, and in this case, I consider it a good thing. Coulson is one of my favorite characters. He rarely even raises his voice. He’s like the eerily calm eye at the center of a superhero hurricane.

In the aftermath of the events of The Avengers (in the series known as The Battle of New York), Coulson and SHIELD Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) supervise a team of young agents who investigate strange occurrences. Though their cases are new, fans of the movies will recognize a lot of familiar elements: the supersoldier formula (Captain America), gods (Thor), the big green monster (The Incredible Hulk), Tony Stark, Extremis (Iron Man), Chitauri (The Avengers). My personal favorite: Coulson’s reference to Loki as “the Asgardian Mussolini.”

Like the Avengers, most of Coulson’s team (Ming-Na Wen,Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain DeCaestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge really don’t want to be on the team. But his calm persistence always wins, in the end–after all, how can you have an argument with someone who won’t argue? His approach to recruiting one new agent is original, effective–and downright funny.

Can the show’s writers come up with new ideas for each episode that maintain the quality of the first episode? That remains to be seen. But I’m willing to bet they can.

Have you seen it? Do you agree or disagree with me? I’d love to hear your take on it!

*****

Don’t miss:
William’s latest photoblog at Ottawa Daily Photo
His excerpt from a book that doesn’t yet exist at Speak of the Devil
and our joint blog, Basking in the Afterglow….

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TV Review: THE BLACKLIST

Too often, when a new series is hyped to the degree The Blacklist has been hyped, the audience ends up disappointed. I can only speak for myself, of course, but I was definitely not disappointed.

Twenty-four years ago, Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader) was a government agent. En route home to his wife and daughter for Christmas, he disappeared. When he finally resurfaced, he was selling secrets to the highest bidder. (No, not like Edward Snowden–this guy actually is brilliant, and doesn’t appear to only be trying to make a name for himself.) Today, he has abruptly resurfaced, walked into FBI headquarters, and surrendered himself.

Why?

This is also the first day on the job for FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), a young woman with a past that bears some similarity to Reddington’s–though she swears she has no connection to him when he insists upon speaking only to her. Liz grew up without her parents and now, by her own admission, seeks to rewrite her past by starting a family of her own. On this first day on the job, she and her husband Tom (Ryan Eggold) are also scheduled to be interviewed by an adoption agency. Neither of them have any idea how drastically their lives are about to change….

This show has been touted as being full of twists and turns, and it most certainly is that…though I suspect most viewers will guess the connection between Reddington and Keen early on. He knows things about her only someone very close to her would know…like, say, a blood relative. He acts like her mentor rather than a prisoner, teaching her to “think like a criminal.” He offers her access to his “Blacklist”–politicians, mobsters, spies and international terrorists, saying they’re going to make a great team….

Five stars–I’d give it ten if I could!

She Pursued Him…Until He Caught Her!

Today, I’m plugging a book–no, not one of my own, but a new memoir by my blogger friend Hilary Grossman. Hilary’s book has been published in spite of some major setbacks she’s had to face–the death of her beloved cat, and the wrath of Hurricane Sandy…which makes me feel like a real wuss when I think about the excuses I’ve made for not finishing anything in the past nine years!
SYNOPSIS:
Hilary had gotten used to dating the commitment-phobic Marc, thirteen years her senior. They had a great relationship–why rush into things? She saw no need to pressure him for marriage, believing that when the time was right, he would propose. But after they had been together for four years, their friends decided to take matters into their own hands, pushing Marc to propose and making Hilary realize how much she really did want to marry the man that she loved. Unfortunately, Marc still wasn’t ready–and their friends’ meddling in the form of a faux engagement party led to a disastrous New Year’s Eve that brought their relationship to an inevitable turning point.
In this relatable, lighthearted, and playful memoir, Hilary reminisces about her life before Marc–from the insecure and awkward teenage years she spent in a back brace and dealing with the loss of her father, to her early relationships and, finally, to the day she met Marc and realized that she really wanted to see him again. Through their first date–even though Hilary was technically seeing someone else at the time–and the ease of their early time together until Marc first decided that they were moving too quickly, up until that fateful New Year’s Eve, Hilary shares the details of their relationship and how Marc’s inability to commit led her to find an inner strength and confidence she didn’t know she possessed.
For anyone who has ever dated a commitment-phobe, who has found their patience wearing thin with the one they love, or who has sat around wondering if he is ever going to pop the question while trying to remain the very picture of patience and grace, Hilary’s humorous and honest story will hit home.
“Dangled Carat Sparkles with humor and shines with wisdom. It is a gem of a book.” – Christina Baker Kline – New York Times Best Selling Author of Orphan Train.
“Fans of Sex and the City – Grossman makes a reference to Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big – will enjoy the story, but its real-girl charm should draw an even wider crowd.” – Kirkus Reviews 
Links:

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

Yesterday was the twelfth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our nation that changed the world irrevocably and shattered our sense of security. When I was growing up, my father always said no war would ever be fought on American soil. I wonder what he would have thought that sunny September morning, when two hijacked passenger planes crashed into the World Trade Center, a third into the Pentagon, and a fourth in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, taken over by passengers determined to keep it from reaching its target….

We all remember where we were when such major events occurred. I was at home that morning. Collin had just left for work. I was getting ready to leave for the library when the Today show was interrupted with the first of what would be several days of nonstop news broadcasts. I was on the phone with Collin when the Pentagon was hit. And I was on a computer at the library when news came of the fourth plane crashing in Shanksville….

I remember where I was when news came of other tragedies–and when Osama bin Laden got what was coming to him. That night, Collin and I were watching a WWE pay-per-view event, so there was no “Breaking News” interruption. Only when the event was over and we switched to a local channel did we see President Obama addressing the nation live to inform us that bin Laden was dead at last.

I also recall clearly….

The Columbia disaster–I was online, exchanging emails with my friend Mets (a nickname, no connection to the baseball team), who works at the space center in Florida, when I got a message from her that read: “We’ve lost Columbia….”

The Challenger explosion–again, I was at home–working in my home office in the basement. I remember Dad coming down the stairs and telling me, “The space shuttle just exploded.” I couldn’t believe it at first….

The JFK assassination–yep, I was around then. I was ten years old, in my fifth grade class at Meramec Heights Elementary School. My teacher told all of us. Even as a child, I was in shock. It didn’t seem possible that our President could have been killed. It wasn’t like being taught about the assassination  of Abraham Lincoln–this was happening in real time.

Do you remember where you were when these events or any others happened? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this….

DVD Review: STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS

I thought this review might be too long after the fact, since I didn’t post it when the movie was in theaters–but now that the DVD has been released, I have a second chance!

I’ve been a fan of the Star Trek films and TV series for many years now. My favorite of the films remains Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home–but I’ve really enjoyed J.J. Abrams’ take on the Trek universe. What I’ve loved most about this franchise overall, however, is not the sci-fi elements or the adventure or the special effects (which were amazing!), but the characters. The crew of the Enterprise is a wildly diverse group that has somehow produced just the right chemistry. They’re not just a crew, they’re a family. In the face of overwhelming danger, they come together in the way families do.

I’m pretty sure this is no longer a secret, so no spoiler alert–in Star Trek: Into Darkness, Kirk and company have their first face-off with the notorious Khan, who appears on Earth with an offer to help a couple whose child is dying. He can save her, he promises. But his offer comes with a price…one that will lead to the deaths of many members of Starfleet, including Kirk’s mentor, Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood). Kirk and the Enterprise crew set off in pursuit–straight into Klingon territory.

The young Captain James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) is what anyone familiar with the character in his later years would expect: brash, stubborn, daring–but always with the best intentions. And with a middle name like Tiberius, one can assume he learned to fight at an early age. He is, as Admiral Pike puts it, Starfleet’s “only genius-level repeat offender.”

Spock (Zachary Quinto), by contrast, is still trying to be all Vulcan, in spite of his half human side. Kirk brings out that human side, which frustrates Spock. Kirk has a nasty habit of giving a single-finger salute to logic. He might not break the rules, but he’ll bend them beyond recognition, the way Uri Geller used to bend spoons.

The negatives? I was disappointed that a pivotal scene from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was borrowed in this movie, reversed to have Kirk dying to save the Enterprise as Spock did in that film. If one is going to rewrite Trek history, don’t include retread scenes! Also, I never bought into the relationship between Spock and Uhura–there was never anything in the original series to even hint at such a relationship, and it seemed to me it was contrived to give the character a stronger presence in the story. It wasn’t necessary. Uhura is and always was a great character without the romance angle.

All of the actors (Pine, Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, John Cho and Anton Yelchin are spot-on in their roles. (Okay, I do have one question: how is it that Scotty, in his later years, has so much more hair than young Scotty? He really is a miracle-worker–or those 23rd-century replicators are just that good!) Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan brings just the right degree of brilliance and menace to the role. I would have preferred he be a more complex villain, like Tom Hiddleston’s Loki in Thor and The Avengers, but still I’m glad the character wasn’t killed off–there’s always the possibility he’ll return in a future installment (and I do hope there will be future installments).

PS Be sure you check out William’s blog–in addition to getting acquainted with his new toy, he has a fascinating story to share!

The War with Technology Rages On….

If you’ve read my partner in crime William’s most recent blog post, you already know I gave him a smartphone. I knew he wouldn’t buy one for himself–he’s resisted the idea of having any kind of mobile phone for as long as I’ve known him. He’s the only person I know who’s fought being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the twenty-first century harder than I did! But the need for a digital camera finally won out.

Now, I think he actually likes it!

When I got my first cellphone ten years ago, I had a few reservations–okay, I had a lot of reservations. The idea of anyone being able to call me wherever I was did not appeal to me at all. I left the house to get away from our phone–I didn’t want to take it with me!

Collin, however, did want one. For him, it made sense. He was working evenings at the time, and had to walk several blocks from the bus stop to our place. He needed to be able to call home in an emergency. And after seeing how convenient it was, I decided to get one for myself.

Our first cells were simple phones–just phone calls and text messages. The next phones we bought, three years later, also had cameras and very limited web access. In a few years, we traded up–I got an HTC Dash from T-Mobile, a great little phone that had some very useful features, like a video camera, digital voice recorder and music player. It also did email.

Within a year, we moved up to our first smartphones, the Samsung Intercept, which had too little memory for my needs, so we soon traded up to the Kyocera Rise, an inexpensive, easy to operate phone which has too many apps to list here. I can edit my manuscripts, read ebooks or magazines, listen to music or audiobooks, take photos or video, do email or text messaging, catch up on the news and weather, get times for movies or public transportation, post to Facebook, Twitter–and my blog. It reminds me of appointments and birthdays and tells me when to take my meds. I keep copies of all important documents and works in progress on it. My smartphone is smarter than I am!

On The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper once predicted that when the machines began their uprising, ATMs would be leading the charge. I disagree. I think my phone will be calling the shots….