MCU Chronological Viewing Part Seven: Avengers Age of Ultron, Agents of SHIELD, and Ant-Man

Guys, I am struggling with this MCU challenge. I maybe should have calculated the hours needed to fulfill this mission before setting out. Actually, it’s probably better that I didn’t. In order to make life easier, I am going to be skipping out on the full plot summary portion of these recaps, because they take forever to write, and there are plenty of great summaries already out there. So I’ll just link to one of those instead. Because ain’t nobody got time for that. If this is your first time checking in for my MCU challenge start here. Then catch up with Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, and Part Six. And if your eyes aren’t bleeding at that point, come back here! Okay, let’s dive in!

Avengers: Age of Ultron

The Basics: Released in 2015 by Marvel Studios and Disney, Ultron reunites the original Avengers gang. The main casting addition is James Spader as the movie’s villain, Ultron. As of this posting, Age of Ultron is available for rent on Amazon for $3.99.

One Sentence Summary: Tony, along with Banner, creates a program he thinks he is going to protect the world, only to discover he has created a crazy robot who is going to destroy the planet.

Full Summary: You can find a detailed plot synopsis here. But an important takeaway: by the end of this movie, we know the location of four of the Infinity Stones. Vision has one, the Tesseract is on Asgard, Tivan has the Aether, and Nova Corps has the orb. Two are unaccounted for.

End Credits Scene: There is only one credits scene. Thanos seems to be frustrated with his minions. We see him putting on the Infinity Stones glove and saying “I’ll do it myself.”

My Reaction: While I don’t love this one as much as the first Avengers movie, it is so important in the MCU that it is worth watching multiple times. Since I’m not a huge Tony Stark fan, I can live without the whole Tony going crazy storyline we’ve seen multiple times before. But there are some moments I love in this movie. Every time Nat flirts with Banner, the look on Thor’s face when Cap wiggles the hammer, our brief glimpse of Peggy–all awesome. I also like that this movie plants the seed for Civil War. Cap and Tony have two very different ideologies, and though we caught glimpses of that in the first Avengers, we really see it start to develop here. Also, since it’s Black Panther month, I should mention that this is the first time we really hear about Wakanda, and we meet Klaue, who appears in BP. Some other thoughts I had while re-watching this movie: I really want a Cap/Thor crossover film (don’t think that’s going to happen since I’m guessing one of them is going to die in Infinity War), I love the development we get of Black Widow re: her not being able to have kids and live a normal life, and for the first time, I kind of understand the government concerns about the Avengers. They really do destroy a shit-ton of property.

My Rating: 9 out of 10, don’t love it as much as the first, but it’s still an awesome movie.

Agents of SHIELD, Season 2 Episodes 20-22

The Basics: Check out Part Six of the blog post series for the first chunk of season two.

Important Plot Points: Since Coulson came in and saved Sokovia at the end of Ultron, the other faction of SHIELD decides to work with him. The other group becomes the advisory board and Coulson remains director. One of the board members, Gonzales, heads to the Afterlife to meet with Jiaying and come to some sort of agreement. Jiaying doesn’t want to work with SHIELD, so she kills Gonzales and shoots herself to make it look like he attacked her first. This spurns a war with SHIELD, with Skye joining Team Inhumans. Ward kidnaps and tortures Bobbi for her role in Kara’s abduction by Hydra. Ward sets her up so that the person who comes to rescue her (presumably Hunter) will be shot when they enter the room. Bobbi takes the bullet instead, to save Hunter. Cal begins to see Jiaying for the killer that she is, but Skye cannot be convinced. Raina confronts Jiaying about killing Gonzales since Raina can see the future, and Jiaying kills her. Skye witnesses the murder, and turns on her mother.The Inhumans plan to release Terrigen into the atmosphere, killing all the non-Inhumans, and transforming all those with the gene. Fitz, Coulson, and Mack are able to stop them, though Coulson loses a hand in the process. Skye takes possession of the crystals from Jiaying and sends them crashing into the ocean. Jianying tries to kill Skye, but Cal stops her and kills Jiaying instead. SHIELD wipes Cal’s memories and sets him up with a new life. Skye is tasked with creating a team of Inhumans. May heads off on a vacation. Ward begins to resurrect Hydra.The Terrigen crystals start to leak into the ocean. Simmons is sucked into the Monolith.

My Reaction: I’m so glad that Jiaying is dead because the actress playing her was terrible. I hate that Ward continues to be so bad (but look so good), but it seems like he is fully crossed over to the dark side at this point, which is easier to handle than thinking he might actually be doing all this for some good, only to be continually disappointed. The ending of the season was pretty intense, and not what I expected. Lots of death and heartbreak, but nothing more heartbreaking than Simmons disappearing right as we were about to see a love connection between her and Fitz (I just want them to kiss dammit!).

My Rating: 9 out of 10, if Ward could be redeemed, we might be in perfect score territory, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen.


The Basics: Released in 2015 by Marvel Studios and Disney, Ant-Man stars Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Pena. As of this posting, Ant-Man is available to rent on Amazon for $3.99.

One Sentence Summary: Criminal Scott Lang must redeem himself in the eyes of his daughter, and chooses to do so by becoming Ant-Man in order to save and protect the technology of its creator, Dr. Hank Pym.

Full Summary: You can find a full plot synopsis here.

End Credits Scenes: In the first scene, Pym gives his daughter Hope the Wasp suit. In the second scene, we see Cap and Sam talking about finding Bucky, which will lead into Captain America: Civil War.

My Reaction: I love Paul Rudd, and I have since Clueless, so I will forever love him and anything he does. This movie is up there with Guardians on the humor scale. Michael Pena does these Drunk Historyesque retelling/lip syncing scenes that are absolutely brilliant. We haven’t had an origin story in a while in the MCU, and this one is a nice break from the heavy drama and problems we’ve been seeing in some of the other films. It’s nice to break up the world-ending with some humor. We also have a scene with Sam in this movie, and I love him, so that was cool. The one thing that is weird in this movie is that Evangeline Lilly looks a lot like Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Michael Douglas plays her dad. So yeah, awkward. Not a huge fan of ants in life, but I’m totally down with Ant-Man.

My Rating: 8 out of 10, of the origin stories, it’s one of my faves.

The next section of the checklist to tackle includes Daredevil Season 2, so I’m dreading it. But I am looking forward to jumping back into Agents of SHIELD, so at least I have that to look forward to! Stay tuned!

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Annihilation Movie Premiere and Review

Last week I experienced a first, which is kind of odd given my proximity to Hollywood. I attended the red carpet (black carpet, specifically) premiere of Annihilation, a new sci-fi movie starring Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, and Tessa Thompson. I’ve attended plenty of preview screenings of films before, but this was my first premiere. And it might be my last. Not that it was bad, it was just not what I expected. I received an invite to sign up for tickets the day before the premiere, and I almost deleted it, but then I noticed that Oscar and Tessa (we’re on a first name basis) were in the film and I couldn’t pass up my chance to see Poe and Valkyrie in person. So I signed up for passes, arranged a baby-sitter, and found a date (Matt had to work and Brianna is a chicken, so I took her husband instead). Brianna’s husband Mike actually read the book (I did not) and enjoyed it, so he kindly accompanied me.

The premiere was held at the Regency Village in Westwood, which is a gorgeous theater that hosts premieres on the reg. We had to get there early to guarantee spots (or so I thought) so I arrived about three hours before the showing to get in line. I was pretty close to the front, and from the looks of the theater, everyone got in and got a seat, so I definitely didn’t need to be there that early. We were handed our tickets around 6:15, and even though the movie didn’t start until 7:30, we were ushered straight to security and into the theater. And here’s the major downside of actually attending the premiere as a guest: we didn’t get to see anyone walk the carpet because we were already inside the theater and inĀ  our seats.

Once inside the lobby, we collected our free popcorn and sodas (score!) and headed to our assigned seats. In the front row. After chilling in our seats for a while, we decided that a) sitting in the front was not going to fly and b) we wanted to see some peeps. So Mike and I headed out to the lobby under the guise of using the bathroom. Security was attempting to keep the lobby clear of people so that the celebs could make their way in without being harassed. Of course while I was actually in the bathroom, Natalie Portman arrived. Mike got to see her, but I of course, missed it. We headed up to the balcony shortly after Natalie’s arrival, where there were plenty of open not-in-the-front-row seats. We couldn’t see anyone from our spots up there, but it was clear where the celebs were sitting because the entire orchestra section of the theater was turned around in their seats, staring and taking pictures.

The movie began about fifteen minutes after it’s scheduled start time. I knew to expect weird thanks to a briefing from Mike, but I guess I wasn’t prepared for the actual level of weird. The basic premise is that Lena (Portman) is some kind of doctor. Her husband (Isaac) disappears on a military mission, only to totally randomly reappear after a year. It’s clear when he returns that something is not right. Lena tries to save him, and in order to find out what is wrong with him in the first place, she goes with a small team of women into the Shimmer–which is kind of what it sounds like–a weird Area 51esque location that shimmers (imagine that). A bunch of weird shit happens inside the Shimmer, and Lena finds some super creepy videos from the husband and his team. It’s a little scary, and a little gory, but mostly it’s just a mindfuck.

The closest we got to the red carpet

Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez both play members of the team Lena travels with and they are by far the highlight of the movie. Rodriguez is hilarious, and Thomposn is her usual badass, kickass self. Seriously, what I love about Tessa is the way she embodies these totally different characters (Valkyrie, the boardmember chick from Westworld, and now a geeky scientist) in a way that allows them all to be completely powerful females. She rules. Also, when I tweeted that she and Gina were the best part of the movie, she favorited my tweet. So we’re totes friends now.

I digress (shocker). Overall, the film left me…perplexed. Like at the end of it, I couldn’t tell if I liked it or not. There are some great moments. Visually, the movie is absolutely stunning, but I can’t say I would go see it again (and I could basically see it for free with Movie Pass…but I probably won’t). I love Oscar (obvs) but his whole character and storyline seemed completely disjointed from the rest of the movie. According to Mike, the husband is not a real character in the book and so they added him into the movie because, well, he’s Oscar. I could definitely feel that. This is also not my favorite kind of Natalie Portman role. I just don’t buy her as a fearless ex-military badass.

Upon reflection, I’ve come to a couple of conclusions. One, the next time I want to go to a premiere, I’m going to skip the movie and just hang out for the red carpet portion. That’s the part I really wanted to see, and I missed it so I could watch the film, which I wasn’t super into to begin with. Of course, if I ever got the chance to go to a Marvel or Star Wars premiere (call me, Disney) I’d be all over that in a heartbeat. But for anything else, I’m just going for the pre-show festivities. Along with that, I am going to do everything in my power to attend the red carpet portion of the Infinity War premiere. Which I’m sure will be crazy. My other conclusion is I would really only recommend this film to people are reeeeaaaallly into sci-fi and don’t mind the weird. And honestly, I don’t know enough about sci-fi to know whether or not it would pass the sci-fi nerd test. I just know that this movie is likely not going to appeal to the average movie-goer. Of course, that’s just my opinion, so take it as you will. If you do end up seeing Annihilation, tweet me your thoughts, hit me up @falonloveslife! I’m very interested to see what audiences and critics think!

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Hotel Review: The Donatello in San Francisco

Last weekend I had the absolute freaking pleasure of escaping to San Francisco for a girls weekend. And boy, was it a needed girls weekend. I’ll be covering more of our shenanigans in a future post, but for today I wanted to take you on a tour of our lovely hotel, the Donatello in Union Square. I have stayed at this hotel before, and while the rooms and lobby are beautiful and impressive, what sells this spot for me is the location. It’s within easy walking distance of so many different places in SF. Being so chained to my car here in LA, I always aim for vacations where I don’t have to drive at all, and this was definitely one of them. I flew into SFO, took the BART into the city, and walked about three blocks from the station to the hotel. Easy peasy. And from there, I didn’t get in another car until I arrived home and got picked up from the airport. Total score. I’ll cover more of those walkable destinations in the next post, but for now, let’s take a closer look at the hotel itself.

As with most cities, space is at a premium in SF, so the bathrooms in the Donatello are not huge, but they are nicely done. And yes, that is a TV built into the mirror. And yes, I did take a bath while drinking wine and watching Jeopardy. Don’t judge me.

One of my favorite things about our room was the kitchenette area. I feel like a fridge is a must in a hotel room, and it’s a total bonus to also have a sink, a microwave, and actual plates and cups. And a wine opener (not pictured, but tucked away in the drawer).

This lovely sofa was the perfect place to chill during the day. It also folds out into a bed, which is awesome. We were able to sleep four gals in the room and not feel cramped. Score.

There’s also a king-sized bed in the room that was so comfy it put me to sleep three hours before my typical bedtime–and while I was on vacation!

I’d like to lie and say I used that desk for a whole bunch of writing and work-doing and practical things, but you know I never lie to y’all.

Overall, I was exceedingly pleased with our stay at the Donatello. Union Square is the perfect location for a girls weekend or a romantic getaway, and our room was above and beyond what we needed. I would 100% stay at this property again in the future, and I would highly recommend checking it out if you are planning a trip to San Francisco.

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Monthly Recap: January 2018

You know what I definitely don’t have enough of in my life right now? Blog post series! Bahahaha! Hope you heard that sarcasm. Well, this series is kicking off because one of my 18 things to accomplish in 2018 is journal, and well, more than thirty days into the year and I am already sucking hard core at that one. BUT…these monthly recap posts can totes serve as a journal of sorts. Plus, it might make me feel like I actually got some shit done this month. So here’s what happened in January!

On the goals front: My goals for January were to set up a writing schedule, make my iPhone case, read four books, update the podcast webpage, book one wedding, post four selfies, and journal. No bueno on the journaling or updating the podcast webpage, but other than that, I can check off all the goal boxes. I’ll take it.

On the wedding planning front: I booked a wedding and a half (it happened at the end of the month so it was an in-betweener), which is great because I had a serious dry spell in December that carried into January and was starting to scare the shit out of me.

On the writing front: Not only did I set up a writing schedule, I mostly stuck to it! In January, I wrote 11k words in romance #1, 3.7k words in romance #2, and published ten blog posts. Go me.

On the reading front: I knocked out six books in January. I read Outlander, Foolish Hearts, Heartless, One and Only, Cruel Prince, and Genuine Fraud. Foolish Hearts was my highest rated read of the month, at five stars. One and Only was my lowest at three stars. Overall, a great month of reading! Plus, I only bought two books, and they were purchased with a gift card I received for Christmas so that means they don’t count against my no book buying in 2018 rule.

On the movie front: Taking full advantage of Movie Pass, I saw four films this month. I saw Thor Ragnarok for the third time; I, Tonya; Greatest Showman for the third time; and Phantom Thread. I loved all of them, and clearly Thor and Greatest Showman have special places in my heart. I, Tonya was my favorite of the two new movies I watched.

On the MCU front: I knocked out a huge chunk of my list. See the latest updates here.

On the podcast front: We recorded and released three new episodes in January. We would so love for you to check out Drink Talk Fangirl and leave us some love!

On the yearly goals front: I made some good progress on a couple of my writing projects, but can’t say I did much more than that. I need to refocus efforts on the getting healthy deal, plus start looking at doing some cleaning and organizing around the house. I did set monthly goals, post my selfies, and craft once this month, so one month down and eleven to go for those year-long goals!

Overall: I’ve hit a bit of an inspiration wall in the past couple of days, so it’s actually nice to sit and look back at everything I’ve done so far in 2018. Even though it might not feel like huge strides, I got a lot of shit done. And I’m going to continue to focus and try to stay on track.

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MCU Chronological Viewing Part Six: Agents of SHIELD, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, and Daredevil

Okay, so I am supes behind on my MCU posts! I’ve been so swept up in (mostly) enjoying the movies and shows that I haven’t had much time to write. But I am back today with another installment and I promise I will work on catching up! If this is your first MCU post, make sure you start here with the original post. Then check out Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five. Then you can report back for today’s post, Part Six! Let’s get to it!

Agents of SHIELD, Season 2 Episodes 1-19

The Basics: Premiering in September of 2014, the second season brings back the original cast, with the additions of Adrianne Palicki, Henry Simmons, and Nick Blood.

Important Plot Points: There are a couple of main storylines in Season 2. One is Skye meeting her parents. Her dad (played by Kyle MacLachlan aka Trey McDougall on Sex and the City) is super crazy and her mom runs a safe space for people who are gifted, also known as Inhumans. Skye spends some time with her mother there, the Afterlife, as she is learning how to control her powers (more on that in a second). Coulson is losing it a little, focusing most of his energy on these weird alien drawings that just come to him, forcing him to carve the symbols into whatever surface happens to be within reach. The drawings lead him and the team to an underground bunker where they find an obelisk that, in the short run of things, enhances powers that Skye and Raina already possess, making them Inhumans. We discover that there are multiple obelisks floating around, many of them in the possession of Skye’s mom and her people. The obelisks kill anyone who doesn’t have the potential to become Inhuman. Ward is being held by SHIELD and he seems repentant and helpful, but he continues to just eff everything up. We learn a lot more about him and his family, and he does try to do some good, but for the most part he continues to disappoint everyone. Fitz is suffering from some brain trauma after being deprived of oxygen for so long when Ward catapulted him and Simmons into the ocean. Simmons is working undercover for Hydra, reporting back to Coulson with info from their science department. She is found out, but saved by Bobbi, another undercover SHIELD agent. Bobbi and Mack join the team, though we find out that they actually work for another branch of SHIELD who don’t want Coulson to be in charge. Raina ends up in the Afterlife and it turns out she can see the future. She sees Skye saving some of their Inhuman friends, so Skye disobeys her mother and leaves the Afterlife, ending up back at SHIELD. Skye begins to feel conflicted, like she must choose between her parents and the Afterlife, and SHIELD.

My Reaction: It was really nice being able to watch most of this season in one large chunk, because I constantly wanted to continue watching. Some of the alien writing stuff got a little weird for my tastes, and I absolutely hated the woman playing Skye’s mom (more on her in the next chunk of AoS) but I like the new characters, and I was happy to check in with all of my old favorites and see that they were mostly okay. Watching Ward is tough this season. I just want him to redeem himself, but every time it looks like he is doing something good, he screws it up and does something terrible. I just want him to be the Grant Ward I loved in the beginning of season one. Don’t think that is going to happen. There was a lot to love about this first chunk of season two, and the last three episodes were pretty rad, so stay tuned for that!

My Rating: 8.5 out of 10, mostly because I need a Ward redemption storyline.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

The Basics: Released in 2017 by Marvel Studios and Disney, the entire cast of Guardians reunites in this sequel. Kurt Russell is the major addition to the cast, starring as Peter’s dad. As of the posting date, Guardians 2 is available on Netflix.

Important Plot Points: After being dubbed the Guardians of the Galaxy, the team work together to bring good to those who need a heroic helping hand. Of course, there’s also something in it for them. The group savesĀ  bunch of powerful batteries for the Sovereigns in exchange for Gamora’s sister Nebula. They plan to take her back to Xandar to collect the bounty being offered for her capture. Rocket decides to steal some of the batteries on the way out, causing the Sovereigns to retaliate, coming after their spaceship to try to get the batteries back. The crew crash lands on a nearby planet after being saved by a mystery man in a huge white ship. Yondu, the leader of the Ravagers and Peter’s former mentor, is running into some issues. The other Ravagers (namely Sylvester Stallone) don’t accept him because he was caught trafficking children. The crew leads a mutiny, tying up Yondu and killing the crew members who supported him. Back at the site of their wrecked ship, Peter meets Ego, who claims to be his dad. Ego invites the Guardians to his planet, and Gamora encourages Peter to go. Peter, Gamora, and Drax go with Ego and his assistant Mantis to Ego’s planet, while Rocket and Groot stay behind to work on the ship and watch over Nebula. The Ravagers show up at the crash site and take Rocket and Groot prisoner with the help of Nebula. Nebula then takes off in a ship to go hunt down Gamora. Yondu, who is also being held prisoner, teams up with Rocket to try to break out. Groot has been allowed to wander since the men on the ship find him entertaining. After some false starts, Groot helps Yondu and Rocket break out of their cell. They then take off to find the rest of the Guardians. Back on Ego’s planet, Peter mostly unsuccessfully tries to woo Gamora. When Peter goes off to spend time with his dad, Nebula arrives on the planet and begins to attack Gamora. After the two both try to kill each other, they realize they don’t want the other to die. They come to some sort of agreement, and along the way discover a huge pile of skeletons that Ego has been hiding. Meanwhile, Ego tells Peter that he is a god, and that if the two of them teamed up they could basically do whatever they want and create whatever they want. Peter seems to be pretty tempted by the idea of so much power. However, Ego then reveals that he was the one who gave Peter’s mom the brain tumor that ended up killing her, which of course, sends Peter into a rage. There is an epic battle, during which Rocket and Yondu show up to help get the win. Yondu ends up sacrificing himself to save Peter, and they have an emotional father/son moment. Yondu receives the Ravager funeral. Nebula is heading off to hunt Thanos. The crew heads out for more adventures.

End Credits Scenes: In the first one, Kraglin is testing out Yondu’s arrow, and mostly failing, finally stabbing Drax with it. The second scene is a meeting of the Ravagers, led by Stakar (Stallone). Scene three is the Sovereign High Preistess creating a new weapon to target the Guardians. Scene four is my favorite: teenage Groot sitting in his disgusting room while Peter scolds him. The final credits scene is the Stan Lee cameo, him being left on some random planet as he tells a long, drawn out story.

My Reaction: As expected, I loved this movie. I will say it is not as good as the first one, which was more noticeable in this viewing as I watched them so close together. But it has everything you want in a Marvel movie: awesome cast, great music, sweet fight scenes, and plenty of laughs. This movie delivers. I thought the plot line with Peter’s dad was a little predictable, it was clear he was going to be a bad guy pretty early on, but the rest of the story made up for it. The interactions with Drax and Mantis are particularly memorable. Honestly, I’m super stoked to see these guys work with the Avengers because who knows what is going to be said. Can’t wait!

My Rating: 8.5 out of 10, awesome, but not as good as the original.

Daredevil, Season 1

The Basics: Released in 2015 as a collaboration between Netflix and Marvel, Daredevil stars Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, and Vincent D’Onofrio. It is the first in a line of TV series from the co-creators.

Important Plot Points: There are zero ties between Daredevil season one and the rest of the MCU. This first season centers around Matt Murdock, who is a lawyer by day and a vigilante by night. Oh, and he’s blind. With some help from his partner and their secretary, he manages to take down the most powerful businessman/mobster in Hell’s Kitchen. And then he gets a suit.

My Reaction: You can maybe tell by my summary. I really was not a fan of this show. In fact, I am dreading watching season two. It sucks because I have been able to find a selling point about everything else I have watched so far, but Daredevil is just not for me. It’s super dark (like literally and figuratively) and the violence is gruesome and graphic. The breaking point for me was watching the villain (who I love because he was on Law and Order Criminal Intent) slam a guy’s head in a car door over and over until he decapitated the guy. I’m sorry, I just have no need for that in my life. The highlight of the show was hearing one of my brother’s songs in episode nine. Luckily, he has two more placed in season two, so I have a reason to keep watching. But I’m not excited for it. At all.

My Rating: 5 out of 10, it’s not the quality of the show, it’s just not for me.

Okay! One more section down! Stay tuned because I will be back with more soon!

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A Walkable Day in Downtown LA

Okay, so I know the words “walkable” and LA don’t usually end up in the same sentence together (possibly because walkable is not actually a word, but that’s beside the point). In fact, one of my biggest complaints about LA is the absolute need for a car and the absolute lack of great public transportation options. Even when I was living in the middle of LA, I still would have had to drive to the Metro station in order to take the train anywhere. Which defeats a major purpose of the train. The struggle is real y’all, and it’s one of the main reasons why I dream of living in NYC. But I guess what kind of makes it okay is once you reach your destination in LA, you can walk around and see some pretty cool shit. Matt and I did just that a couple of weeks ago, and we had a really awesome day walking around downtown Los Angeles (DTLA if you’re cool like that). And, we only had to drive to one spot, and we only had to pay for parking once. Score.

We parked at the Music Center because we had tickets for Something Rotten for that night, and knew that’s where we were going to end up. There’s lots of cool stuff to see near the Music Center, including the Broad Museum, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Our first stop of the day was Perch, a rooftop bar on Hill Street. We had some yummy drinks (mine was called Writer’s Block, hello appropriate!) and took in some great views, particularly of Pershing Square. If you want to sit on the patio at Perch, I definitely recommend making a reservation. We were there at 3:00 and it was pretty crowded.

After Perch, we walked over to The Last Bookstore on Spring Street. Matt had never been before, so we spent some time exploring the upstairs galleries before shopping for some books. I’ve written about Last Bookstore before, it is a must do for any book lovers visiting or living in LA. Be forewarned: it’s expansive and a lot of walking, and there are no public bathrooms available (and it’s not in the best area so you’re not going to want to use the bathrooms anywhere around it). Make sure you prepare for your trip before you go in!

After working up our appetite walking around Last Bookstore, we headed over to Maccheroni Republic on Broadway for dinner. If you read my review, you know that we freakin’ loved this restaurant. Seriously, I cannot wait for an excuse to go back because it was so damn delicious.

After dinner, we headed back to the Music Center to see Something Rotten, which was my Christmas present from Matt. I love this show so much, and I was really impressed with the tour cast. We had a blast, and we laughed our asses off.

By the end of our walkable DTLA day, we had racked up about four miles worth of steps, which means we didn’t even have to feel guilty about the massive quantities of pasta and booze we managed to consume in a single day. It was nice to feel like I was in San Francisco or NYC while actually being just minutes away from home. I plan to spend some more walkable days downtown soon!

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MCU Chronological Viewing Part Five: Captain America Winter Soldier, Agents of SHIELD, and Guardians of the Galaxy

Okay folks, we are entering an intense chunk of the checklist here. If this is your first time checking in, start here with the original post. Then check out Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four. Then come back. I was excited for this section because (before Ragnarok) Guardians was my favorite Marvel film, and I obviously still love it so I was excited to watch it again. And it is also safe to say I am officially addicted to Agents of SHIELD so I was super psyched to see how the end of season one wrapped up. But holy moly, some shit goes down in this section of the viewing. So let’s get to it.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The Basics: Released in 2014 by Marvel Studios and Disney, our favorites return in this Cap sequel. The movie stars Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, and Sebastian Stan. We also have appearances by Hayley Atwell, and the introduction of Anthony Mackie (yum). As of this posting, Winter Soldier is available to rent on Amazon for $3.99.

Important Plot Points: So much happens in this one, it’s hard to start. But let’s get to it. At the beginning of the movie, Cap meets Sam, a war vet who helps other vets deal with coming back to civilian life. During their brief meeting, Cap gets a message from Nat that they have a mission, which is to save a bunch of SHIELD hostages whose ship has been boarded by pirates. During the mission, Cap catches Nat downloading files onto a flash drive and questions her about it. Nat only says she is following orders from Fury. Back at headquarters, Cap questions Fury. Fury shows him Project Insight, three huge helicarriers that have the technology to tap into satellites around the globe and eliminate potential threats. Cap is not on board with this level of aggression, but Fury insists that after the events in New York, it is necessary. Cap has a couple of personal moments, first visiting an exhibit at a museum dedicated to him and his crew. He sees a dedication to Bucky, and watches a video interview of Peggy commending him. He goes to visit the real Peggy, who is old and appears to have Alzheimer’s. Fury is unable to access the files Nat took, so he asks the Defense Secretary Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) to delay Project Insight. After some negotiation, Pierce agrees. Fury is attacked in his car, first T-boned by “police” cars, and then shot at repeatedly during a lengthy chase. Fury sees the Winter Soldier, who is coming to finish him off, but Fury is able to escape, though he is injured. Cap has an innocuous meeting with Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) in the hallway of his building, where she lets him know he left his radio on. Cap proceeds cautiously into the apartment to find Fury waiting for him. Fury lets Cap know through text that they are being watched/listened to and to trust no one. A gunman shoots Fury multiple times. Carter/Agent 13 comes in to help Fury. Cap chases after the Winter Soldier but he disappears. Cap takes the flash drive and heads to the hospital, where he, Nat, and Hill watch Fury die on the operating table. Nat questions Steve, but he tells her nothing. He hides the flash drive in a vending machine at the hospital. Cap goes to HQ where Pierce questions him. As Cap is leaving, he is attacked in the elevator. He manages to escape, and Pierce declares him a fugitive. Cap returns to the hospital only to find Nat has taken the flash drive. Cap wants to know about the Winter Soldier, Nat tells him is a proficient killer with over 200 deaths under his belt. They decide to use the flash drive to gain info about him. Nat and Cap use the flash drive to lead them to New Jersey, to the base where Cap was first trained as a soldier. They discover it’s actually the first SHIELD office, and find a room full of old computers. Nat plugs the flash drive in and the computers have the face/voice of Zola, the former Red Skull accomplice. Zola reveals that there have been HYDRA operatives working inside of SHIELD since SHIELD was founded. The location is hit by a missile, which Cap and Nat narrowly avoid. Meanwhile, Pierce has a meeting with the Winter Soldier, who still has yet to say a word. Cap and Nat hide out at Sam’s apartment, where he tells them about Falcon, huge metal wings that Sam wears and uses to fly. The three conspire to kidnap Agent Sitwell, and force him to give up intel. Sitwell reveals that Project Insight is going to be used to target people that could pose a threat to HYDRA, name-dropping Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, and Dr. Strange as some of the many who will be killed. The Winter Soldier jumps into the car transporting the foursome, pulls Sitwell out, and tosses him into traffic. The battle that follows ends when Cap pulls the Winter Soldier’s mask off and reveals that it is actually his longtime best friend, presumed dead after the first movie, Bucky. Bucky has no idea who Cap is. Cap, Nat, and Sam are taken into custody. Luckily, Hill is in disguise as one of their guards, and takes them to a secret facility, where she shows them Fury is still alive. HYDRA is planning to set the Project Insight helicarriers into motion within hours. While they are making repairs to Bucky’s metal arm, he starts having flashbacks of his old life.Pierce orders the agents to wipe his memory. Cap and Sam break into HQ, where Cap commandeers a PA system to tell all of SHIELD that they have been infiltrated by HYDRA, but that he knows they will do the right thing. There is a fight in the control room between SHIELD and HYDRA agents, and the helicarriers are released. Cap and Sam head for the carriers, each of them with a chip to insert into the computer systems of the helicarriers. If the chips are implanted in all three helicarriers, they will be disabled and unable to take down their targets. Nat has disguised herself as a council member and manages to disarm Pierce for a minute before he takes out the rest of the council. Fury shows up to put a stop to Project Insight with his and Pierce’s authorization. Sam and Cap manage to get the chips into the first two helicarriers. Cap heads for the third, only to meet Winter Soldier there. After Cap gets the chip in place, he says he is not going to fight Bucky. The two go down into the water with the helicarrier. Bucky pulls an unconscious Cap out of the water and leaves him on the banks alone. Cap recovers, and decides to go after Bucky. Sam signs up to go with him.

End Credits Scene: In the first scene, we see a HYDRA lab that, among other things, is experimenting with Loki’s scepter. We also see the twins, Wanda and Pietro, locked up in glass boxes. They will make an appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron. In the final credits scene, Bucky walks through the museum exhibit and sees himself and his friends in their former lives.

My Reaction: Damn. This movie is dark and complex. Despite some of the heaviness in previous movies, this one felt really real to me. This movie also has a lot of repercussions for the MCU as a whole, with a lot of links to AoS and the remaining movies yet to come. This idea of SHIELD and its secrets is a prevailing them in AoS, and we see the dangers of the secrets come out in the movie. There are some truly amazing fight scenes in this movie, and while the big battles always look awesome, what stood out to me was the hand-to-hand combat. It’s next level good. It’s hard to watch Cap have a major identity crisis like he does in this film, but I love that he always stays true to his good nature. There are never any doubts about Cap’s intentions, and I don’t know that you can say that about any of the other Avengers. Also, Chris Evans looks beautiful, and Anthony Mackie is hot. So there’s that. This one was a lot to take it, but it cleared up a lot of questions I had about the MCU in its current state. So definitely one worth watching.

My Rating: 8 out of 10, I don’t know that I would call it enjoyable, but it’s really well done, and important to the overall story.

Agents of SHIELD, Season 1 Episodes 16-22

The Basics: Same as before.

Important Plot Points: Right off the bat, it is important to note that episodes 16 and 17 are basically happening in conjunction with Captain America: Winter Soldier. You should watch the movie and those two episodes as close together as you can. The end of the season follows the fall of SHIELD as we learn who is HYDRA and who’s not. Coulson is really the only one we know for sure, right away, is not. We learn that May has been secretly reporting to Fury. In episode 17 we learn that Agent Garrett, who is Ward’s S.O. and Coulson’s long time friend is actually HYDRA. Then in episode 18, we learn that Ward is too. It’s all downhill from there. The team makes it to a safe house in the middle of nowhere where Agent Koenig (Patton Oswalt) greets them. While the rest of the team is out, Ward kills Koenig and takes Skye, thinking she is going with him willingly because she likes him. Really, Skye has figured out he is HYDRA and is setting him up. Garrett needs her to hack into SHIELD files so Ward plans to bring her to him. Coulson learns that he was in charge of the original TAHITI team and told Fury to shut it down because it wasn’t safe to put the GH325 in people’s blood. We learn about Grant’s totally messed up childhood, and how he was in juvie when Garrett came to him. Garrett promised him a purposeful life, broke Grant out of jail, and basically indoctrinated him into HYDRA. Ward is told to kill Fitz-Simmons, so he leads the two of them into an airtight pod and ejects the pod into the ocean. They, of course, find a way to get out of the pod, but Fitz suffers pretty severe oxygen loss during their escape, which is only made possible by Nick Fury. Fury tells Coulson that he is done and out of the picture, then tells Coulson that it us up to him to rebuild SHIELD.

My Reaction: Holy moly. Well. I was into SHIELD during the first part of the season already, but these final episodes got me completely hooked. I definitely saw Garrett being a traitor, but watching Ward turn on his teammates was actually heartbreaking. The only thing I wrote down while watching episode 18 was “WTF WARD?!?!?” It was so hard watching him send Fitz-Simmons to a likely death, to see him kill innocent people, to know he betrayed his team. But his actions became more understandable (though entirely inexcusable) watching him be saved by Garrett and learning more about his family and upbringing. It’s hard because I so want Ward to be the good guy I thought he was. I still have hope for him (and if you’ve listened to the podcast at all, you know I love a redemption story…looking at you, Theon). It was really interesting to watch these episodes back to back with CAWS because it was almost like another side to the movie. It was really cool to see the SHIELD point of view as the agency collapsed and everything went down in flames.The movie and these episodes in conjunction with one another really clarified a lot of details for me.

My Rating: 9 out of 10, I didn’t want to stop watching!

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Basics: Released just a few months after CAWS by Marvel Studios and Disney, Guardians start Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Dave Bautista, with the voices of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper. As of this posting, Guardians of the Galaxy is available to rent on Amazon for $3.99.

Important Plot Points: The movie opens with young Peter Quill on Earth saying goodbye to his mother, who dies of cancer. Quill is then abducted by aliens. We then jump 26 years in the future to a planet called Morag. Peter, aka Star Lord, steals a mysterious orb. He is supposed to deliver said orb to his mentor Yondu, but he decides instead to sell it and keep the profits for himself. On a Kree warship, Ronan is told that Peter has the orb; Ronan wants the orb so he can give it to Thanos in exchange for Thanos destroying the planet Xandar. Nebula volunteers to go get the orb, but her sister Gamora (both adopted daughters of Thanos) is sent instead. Peter goes to a broker on Xandar to sell the orb, but as soon as he questions the broker about why Ronan would want it, the broker backs out of the deal, saying he wants nothing to do with Ronan. Peter is kicked out of the shop and immediately jumped by Gamora. Rocket the Raccoon and Groot see that there is a bounty on Peter so they join the fight, trying to capture him. All four are arrested and sent to prison, where everyone wants to kill Gamora because of her ties to Thanos and Ronan. She insists that she was planning on betraying Ronan and Peter believes her. The foursome decide to work together to break out of prison and sell the orb to Gamora’s buyer, splitting the profits four ways. They are joined by Drax, a huge dude with a vendetta against Ronan, who killed his wife and child. Rocket gets them out of the prison with the orb, and they fly off to Knowhere. On Knowhere, Peter and Gamora go to meet with the buyer, Tivan the Collector, while the other three get drunk, gamble, and fight. The Collector reveals that the orb holds an Infinity Stone, which has the power to destroy planets. His assistant touches the stone, blowing up everything around her. Ronan arrives with his crew because Drax called him there so he could get his revenge. Yondu also shows up to collect Peter. During the battle, Drax is left for dead, Gamora floats off into space until Peter saves her, and Nebula gets the orb. Yondu pulls Gamora and Peter onto his ship, saving them both. Ronan informs Thanos he now has the stone and doesn’t need Thanos to destroy Xandar. Working with Yondu and his crew, Peter and the Guardians come up with a plan to defeat Ronan. After an epic battle, the Guardians are left on Ronan’s ship, which is hurtling to the ground. Groot wraps everyone in his tree branches, making a cocoon that allows them all to survive the fall, though it “kills” Groot. Once they recover from the crash, they realize Ronan is still alive. Rocket releases the stone, which was embedded in Ronan’s hammer, and Peter grabs it. It starts to affect him the same way it did Tivan’s assistant, but Gamora takes his hand, and Rocket and Drax also join in the chain, absorbing the power so it doesn’t kill Peter, and instead it kills Ronan. Yondu demands Peter hand over the stone, which he does. One of Yondu’s cronies remarks to Yondu that he is glad they never turned Peter over to his father like they were originally hired to do. Gamora is pissed Peter gave away the stone, but Peter tells her it was a fake. Instead, Peter delivers the stone to Nova Headquarters for safekeeping. Nova Prime tells Peter he is only half human, and that is father is something unknown, which is part of the reason he was able to hold the stone. Peter, Gamora, Rocket, Drax, and Baby Groot head off in Peter’s ship for more adventures.

End Credits Scene: The first one is the best end credits scene of all time. We see little Baby Groot, just a twig planted in a pot, dancing to the Jackson 5. In the final credits scene, we see the Collector and his space dog among the wreckage of his collection, sitting with Howard the Duck.

My Reaction: I love this movie as much as everyone else loves this movie. I mean, what’s not to love? On top of all the action and adventure, it’s hilarious. The cast is badass, and these are some of the most entertaining characters I can think of. Clearly, it has the best soundtrack of any Marvel movie, and it has some of the best lines too. My favorite is when Gamora tells Peter she will not fall victim to his “pelvic sorcery”. Epic. The whole scene with the crew on the Milano formulating their plan is just comedic genius. I’ll never get sick of this movie. This is one I can, and will, watch over and over.

My Rating: 9.5 out of 10, pretty damn close to perfection.

Aaaaand my brain hurts. Good God that is a lot of stuff. I’m rapidly approaching the halfway point of my checklist, and I am really loving the journey so far. Stay tuned for the next leg!

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