Monday, April 28, 2014

IFFBoston 2014: the first five days…

And now, some brief late night ramblings on my IFFB 2014 screenings so far. If I write "SEE IT!" I mean see it in a theater if you can. Of course, that may not be an option for many people and sadly, many of these films. If that turns out to be the case, please try to see a "SEE IT!" any way you can. =)


BENEATH THE HARVEST SKY (Q&A w directors Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet, co-star Aiden Gillen, and soundtrack artist Dustin Hamman)
IFFB | website | my ramble
SEE IT! Rambled on it here.

FIGHT CHURCH (Q&A w directors Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel and pastor-fighters Paul Buress and Preston Hocker)
IFFB | website | my ramble
SEE IT! Rambled on it here.

SHORTS G: NARRATIVE (Q&A w "Distance" director Aimee Long)
"How To Stand Up For Yourself"
When a little girl decides how important something is to her, she takes a stand against her mother's rule. Will Mom give in, or follow through with tough love? I can see what the film was going for, but it failed to connect with me. 
"Lambing Season"
Really enjoyed this one. Bridget enlists her fiance's help to confront her long lost father, whom she's tracked to a sheep farm in Ireland. She approaches her father under false pretenses, planning to learn about him as part of a documentary film crew, without revealing her true identity and relationship to the man. What if for his own reasons, her father has had the same idea? 
*SPOILERY* notes to self. Leaving the "resolution" of the film's conflict up to the urgency of nature/a natural event is pretty perfect. Also appreciated that her father tried to hide himself behind the identity of "Father Patrick," for being a father, and for Bridgid's Patrick being a father-to-be. 
"The Hero Pose"
Also loved this one. A man spends the day with his daughter in their front yard and on their porch while he waits around for prospective buyers of his clunker of a car. The girl, otherwise bored out of her mind, engages Dad in some free flowing conversation that reveals quite a bit about the separated parents and how each has or hasn't moved on. The girl is a horribly irresistible charmer in this. 
Love love this. Samnang works the overnight shift as doughnut baker. When he's told to train the boss's sister to do his own job, Samnang is not pleased. It's going to be a long night. We get to see Samnang work his shift once on his own. Kind of magical watching him engaged in the donut making all alone. The next night, we see him "share" the kitchen with his trainee, someone whom he automatically sees as a threat to his job security. The only job he has and one he needs. Attitude and little passive- (and later, active-) aggressive moves mean a lot in this. It's lovely to watch unfold. 

A well-realized glimpse of a near future world of high toxic pollution and travel rationing. A great effects team did some solid work, unfortunately, the story wasn't all that compelling to me.

THE SEARCH FOR GENERAL TSO (Q&A w director Ian Cheney)
IFFB | website

SEE IT! In this documentary, ostensibly about the origin of General Tso's Chicken, an investigation into this apparently ubiquitous American Chinese menu item becomes a surprising and tasty gateway into the history of Chinese immigrants in the U.S. Also, you find out who General Tso is. A deliciously enlightening watch.

FAT (Q&A w director Mark Phinney, cast, and crew)
IFFB | facebook

So impressed by this. The lead, Mel Rodriguez, delivers a powerful performance as Ken, a man whose life and relationships seem to fall apart as he comes to grips with with obesity, addiction, depression, and denial. Hard to watch at moments, but appropriately so. The TIFF blurb says it pretty frickin well…

Powered by an utterly fearless, tour-de-force performance by Mel Rodriguez, FAT is a bracingly personal inventory of the indignities of battling obesity. Making his feature directorial debut, comedian Mark Phinney has adapted a series of autobiographical essays into an unflinching portrait of a life consumed by a compulsive and tragically self-destructive relationship with food. Often deeply discomfiting, FAT is also darkly funny, and above all, a film of remarkable emotional honesty.

There are some technical issues that I hope can be fixed, or overlooked, so that this film gets much more exposure.

THE CASE AGAINST 8 (Q&A w litigants Sandy Stier and Kris Perry)
IFFB | website

SEE IT! A wonderfully crafted documentary following the progress of the case built against Proposition 8 in California, the law which outlawed gay marriage in the state by popular vote. The film follows the case almost from its conception and the formation of its legal team, whose anchorman, Ted Olson, would have been the last person anyone would expect to be asked, much less to agree to join in the lawsuit. He in turn picked a most unlikely partner, David Boies. Do these names mean anything to you? The didn't to me, until placed in the context of news reports from 2000—they were the leaders of opposing counsel in Bush (Olson) v. Gore (Boies). Once the legal minds are committed, we meet the plaintiffs of the case, two couples, one gay, one lesbian, vetted by these lawyers and their team. The film follows all of them over the years it takes to develop, try, and ultimately rule on and against Proposition 8. It's a helluva story and an excellent cinematic telling of it.

WILD CANARIES (Q&A w producer)
IFFB | website

Did not love this. Appreciated a lot of what was going on here, but felt like the movie was a bit schizophrenic. The screwball noir-ness worked not-too-badly, but the relationship bumps just seemed too base and mean-spirited. In general I like when a film doesn't give a damn and defies classification—life doesn't know anything about genres after all—but the change-ups in mood/tone caused by the relationship tangles weren't complementary to the mystery. Gotta say, tho, this film overall is a very interesting different direction compared to GREEN, which screened a few years back at IFFB, from the same writer, director, and stars. Alia Shawkat's role in this totally flashes me back to Maeby Bluth in her Hollywood exec era, heh. I do wish that Kevin Corrigan got more screen time. He was channelling SOMEONE in this, but I couldn't quite put my finger on who. Walken, maybe?

IFFB | website

SEE IT! Love love this. Hilarious, thoughtful, rude, and sweet romantic comedy featuring fierce and lovely Jenny Slate as a 27 year-old Brooklyn comedian who gets dumped, fired, and pregnant just in time for Valentine's Day. Written and directed by Gillian Robespierre. Until this film, I knew Slate only as John-Ralphio's sister (and hilariously nightmarish girlfriend of Tom Haverford) on PARKS & REC. From now on, I will be paying attention to everything these two women have done and do.

*SPOILERY* notes to self. Peefarter!

9-MAN (Q&A w director Ursula Liang, editor, and three players)
IFFB | website

SEE IT! (esp. if you dig volleyball!) Would make a great double feature w GENERAL TSO!.Excellent documentary that follows several teams of Chinese 9-man volleyball players over the course of a year, from try-outs to nationals. Along the way, we encounter the generations of Chinese immigrants and American born Chinese who have taken up the sport and why it means so much to their communities and culture. Also features some impressive highlights of tournament play. =)

*SPOILERY* notes to self. Ontario Canadians (I think?) have no problem using the word "oriental" to describe people of Asian descent.

IFFB | website

I enjoyed it, but it's a tough recommend to everyone. Sad and dark but nice to look at. When a Japanese office lady discovers a VHS tape of the movie FARGO apparently hidden in a seaside cave, she takes the Coen Brothers at their word and believes the events of the film to be true. She becomes obsessed with the notion that the money that Steve Buscemi's Carl Showalter buries in the North Dakota snow is still there.

The ending may not be the most satisfying (no wood chipper?!), but sadly, it does seem correct. I would have appreciated some more fish-out-of-water/cross-cultural encounters and maybe a little less bleak-ness, hard as that may be to come by in the Dakota/Minnesota wilds.

*SPOILERY* notes to self. Bunzo! A beautiful shot of Kumiko at twilight, trudging thru a snow covered clearing in the woods, in her motel blanket poncho, looking like an arrowhead against the white ground, dark trees a thick band on the horizon, darkening sky above her. When Kumiko discovers the VHS tape of FARGO at the start of the film, she has been led there by a map. I'm not certain if it's a map of her own creation (she makes one to guide her FARGO quest) or something that she acquired somehow. There really is only one way this can end, but I hoped for a CITY SLICKERS sorta explanation of a kind-of-actual FARGO treasure, buried in the snow and ice beside a random stretch of North Dakota road. Y'know, part of a live-the-movie FARGO tour dealio? Alas, not to be. It turns out that the "true story" card lifted from FARGO and used at the opening of KUMIKO also applies more accurately to KUMIKO than FARGO. A young Japanese woman did in fact die in the snow on what several people believed was a quest for the FARGO McGuffin. The true true story is even sadder…

IFFB | website

SEE IT! (esp. if you like musicals!) Horribly adorable. Like SHORT TERM TWELVE meets LINDA, LINDA, LINDA… kinda sorta. So, yeah, I might be a sucker for youthy angst/right-of-passage stories on film, and if you're gonna create a musical around such a story, and set it in Ireland, whose music could be more fitting than Stuart Murdock's? He's the lead singer of Belle & Sebastian, his/their music is featured in the film and he wrote and directed. The story is pretty simple…

Young woman trying to find herself runs away to Glasgow hoping to break into music by getting a song played on a popular radio show. There she befriends a philosophical folksy guitar player and his ingenue student. Of course, they decide to form a band (altho whether it needs a name is not a forgone conclusion… Hrm, there's a name, eh?). And—Wacky musical fun ensues! The result: some very lovely musical candy with more than a few sweet comedic turns and great laughs.

*SPOILERY* notes to self. I dig the pyramid that the doctor or whoever-she-was drew up for Eve. It was about how to build a life. When you get to the higher levels, if they break down, the ones below them will catch you. And if you try to skip the lower ones, to try for the top, if you don't make it, you fall hard. Elegant.
Keep on screenin on~

Friday, April 25, 2014


FIGHT CHURCH introduces you to a number of Christian pastors who also happen to enjoy practicing mixed martial arts. These men (one of them known as "The Pastor of Disaster!") have made their fighting an integral part of their fellowship, creating church fight clubs and gyms where they train others in MMA and teach lessons of Christianity. Reconciling the teachings of the Bible with the brutal physicality and violence of cage fighting might seem impossible to most, but these men find no inconsistency or issue. They quote scripture in support of beloved warrior kings and the mission to use one's God-given gifts in his name.

Paradoxical? Listen to these men, watch them train, preach, and fight, and try to decide for yourself. They are not all the same, but they are all interesting characters (who could probably coerce you into tapping out in seconds). Maybe one or two are legitimately a bit frightening. The movie doesn't make a call on rightness or wrongness of this mix of open hand and closed fist, that's up to you. See it if you can—it plays again on Saturday at 6:30pm at the Somerville Theatre. It's a well-crafted and thought-provoking watch.

* Note that director Bryan Storkel will lead a post-screening Q&A at the Saturday show!

While the movie pushes in to meet each of these holy ass-kickers, it also pulls out to introduce other figures who have a very different relationship with MMA: political and religious leaders involved in the battle over legalizing professional MMA fighting in the state of New York. The film does an excellent job of keeping the portrayal of MMA fighting even handed, speaking to lovers, supporters, and opponents of the phenomenon (one man's sport, another man's dehumanizing violence) as well as showing us the faces of those involved in the fights themselves at an intimate scale, the fighters—pros, amateurs, and children, their family, and the fans and congregations who watch.

It's pretty F'd up. See it!
NPR "Only A Game" host Doug Tribou moderates the Q&A with pastor-fighters Paul Burress and Preston Hocker, and FIGHT CHURCH directors Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel
The IFFB screening tonight was the world premiere of the film! The directors and two of the "stars" attended and held post-show Q&A. I'll try to do a follow-up ramble with more on that sooner rather than later.

Keep on keepin on~

P.S. I was debating whether to see this film or TRAP STREET last night and hafta admit that it was the Colbert Bump that nudged me to FIGHT CHURCH. Thanks, Dr. Colbert! WristStrong!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


IFFB 2014 opened tonight with BENEATH THE HARVEST SKY, a beautiful film about Casper and Dominic, best friends growing up in a farming town on the Canadian border, and a Harvest Week that changes their lives. The week off from school in Van Buren, Maine is an opportunity for Dominic to make some money working on the potato harvest, while Casper earns by working for his father, who's in the business of smuggling drugs across the border. The boys have a pact of sorts: pool the money they make to leave this small nowhere dead-end town and make their way in the world. Alas, the people closest to each of them all seem intent on keeping them there, one way or another.

The directors Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, soundtrack artist Dustin Hamman, and co-star Aidan Gillen (Tommy Carcetti of THE WIRE) were present for Q&A after and the directors mentioned their hope/goal was to make the kind of film that they grew up loving, a STAND BY ME or THE OUTSIDERS, that just doesn't seem to be made these days. I think they've succeeded in creating an heir to those films. Something true to the relationships of those films, but different in style, and excellent in style. The directors' previous work has been documentary, and that seems to inform what they've created in HARVEST SKY. It feels real.

It doesn't hurt any that Emory Cohen, who plays Caspar, is remarkable in his role. I think the proper critical non-hyperbolic hyperbole would be "a revelation." The directors explained that most people on set called Emory—or only knew him as—Caspar. Musician Dustin Hamman shared a story about spending a night in one of the film locations with Caspar, and when Emory, apparently ready to break character, offered to tell Dustin his real name. Dustin replied something like, "No, man. That's okay. I don't want to know." Why mess with the mojo, right?

Emory is really frickin good.

In power (please excuse the vague term) and style, casting and performances, minutes in, the film reminded me of WINTER'S BONE. It wasn't a deja vu thing in any way, and it really only crossed my mind once, but for me there's something sympathetic between the two films. Or at least my memory of them. Would make for a very satisfying double feature, if you're feeling up to some darkness with your coming-of-age stories.

The directors announced that the film will be playing for a week at the Coolidge Corner theater. Yes, it is already available via iTunes and Amazon Prime, but if you can, please grab a friend or three and see it on the big screen together. So very worth it.

Some dopey asides, more for me to remember than for anyone else's illumination. There are some not-super-important spoilers, so skip/stop reading if you'd rather not know some details before seeing the film…

Love that Casper and Dominic are reading S.E. Hinton's THE OUTSIDERS for English class. Also love that the teacher brought up the "Jim twins" for the lesson. I wanted to ask (but of course didn't/chickened out) if it was always THE OUTSIDERS in the script. When the movie started, I wasn't thinking of it along those lines, but having the book in there, as part of the fabric of the film, connected a dot for me and I like it.

Casper's parting shot at his teacher at the end of that scene is pretty perfect, too.

I love the strong show-don't-tell-ness of the film. No doubt it plays a big part in achieving the real-ness of the film. We are given… shown… allowed to see and hear… traces of things, glancing blows of conversations and events, bits and pieces that almost subliminally build character and relationships. I really dig that.

The directors mentioned that they took indie potato farming as a metaphor for indie filmmaking. At the end of the harvest, the potatoes get trucked off by Terra Chips. When I was eavesdropping on the directors after Q&A, someone congratulated them on getting distribution with Tribeca Films, and I dropped a wee clunker: if the potato farming in the film represents independent filmmaking, then is Tribeca your Terra Chips?

While the film was playing, I saw the focus on the potatoes to be a way of marking time during Harvest Week. Later, I kinda took the potatoes to be the boys, and maybe the small town residents in general. Not a perfect parallel, but you can sort of talk your way into it. To grow big potatoes you want to kill of their flowers, so they don't leech nutrients from the tubers (educational!). Once grown, they are harvested and shipped away from the place where they are grown. That's the best case scenario, I guess. The worst case: you get picked and chucked into Casper's potato cannon. Heh.

Keep on keepin on~

P.S. Hey, me!—Do not forget the image of Dom's harvest friend walking alone on the train tracks into the sunset, all aglow. And the times we see her see him when he doesn't. Wonderful stuff.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Marvel ramblings: Hail Hydra!

Some randomish bits of crazy talk in the wake of CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER and AGENTS OF SHIELD: Turn, Turn, Turn.

Garrett/Clairvoyant: Hail Hydra? Yeah, yeah, whatev…

I hope/don't yet believe that the Clairvoyant is just a Hydra lieutenant. I stand by my theory that the CV is someone who's been involved in all parts of the SHIELD turducken, but only for his own goals. Even if Ward were free to express his own independent thoughts, he wouldn't need to "Hail Hydra" because that's not to whom he'd pledge his allegiance (extorted or freely given). His allegiance is to Garrett, who has so far enjoyed being taken for the CV. When SHIELD agents storm the room he and Coulson's team are in, he calls out Sitwell's recruits with a "Hail Hydra" out of convenience more than loyalty. He explains as much when he describes how he turned his sails.

I'm finding it less likely that Garrett has had access to the Insight Algorithm now. I was hoping that the CV would have stolen/duped a beta of the algorithm for personal gain and planned out most if not all of SHIELD's confrontations with Centipede. Now it seems that he's a gifted button-pusher and strategist whose taken genius-level advantage of the SHIELD's HR department's files.

Which, incidentally, are now out in the open, thanks to the events of WINTER SOLDIER, no? I'm gonna not go out on a limb here and say that Fury's super fancy secure tip top secret files were not released (Coulson's recovery, GH-325, among others), tho. So, Avengers Initiative files? Perhaps a seed for something like a Young Avengers team? The Index? Which could be tapped for super-skilled and super-abilified human resources for good and evil, no? Skye's history? Weapons designs? Project Pegasus? What else?

So, what IS Garrett's/the CV's motivation? Survival? Being on the winning side?

Hail Hydra: Ward?

Can Ward be a double agent? We're meant to understand that he killed all those SHIELD/Hydra guys in the corridor while Skye was hiding, right? He eyed that knife on the floor, got to it, used it.

Hrm… Any chance he's kept a sliver of the Berserker staff in his utility belt?

I've got two possibilities:

1. He's under Centipede-tech remote control, like Deathlok. He could've been implanted before or early in his tenure as part of Coulson's team, without his knowing. Not sure where that would've been likely in show continuity, but I'm sure there's a gap where it could happen. The connection might not have been activated for control until more recent events, and until then used for passive intel gathering. This certinaly fits into an explanation of his shooting Thomas Nash, the prop CV. He finds himself pointing his weapon directly at the man who's been manipulating him by remote for days, weeks, maybe months. What can Nash possibly do to Ward or anyone/anything Ward cares about (leverage) before he shoots and kills him? Nothing. Maybe there were even remote commands like "PLAY ALONG AND TAKE ME INTO CUSTODY," "ALL ACCORDING TO PLAN," playing in Ward's eyes. But Ward's doing that bullet math, and when Nash's mechanical voice starts explaining what will happen to Skye, he carries the one and fires. F it. At this point, the real CV would stop transmitting to Ward's implant. So, Ward would still have the hardware in his head, but see no more commands and believe that he's truly free and the CV is dead. Until it's revealed that he shot the wrong man, that is. New commands would have appeared in his HUD when Hand gives him the opportunity to execute Garrett. And, if that IS what happened, then the CV is still transmitting, which means that the CV can't be cuffed and restrained Garrett, right?

2. This is kind of a romantic notion, but he's legitimately in man-love with Garrett. He's not a Hydra agent, he's a Garrett agent. Garrett's training was such that he instilled unquestioning loyalty and respect in his agents. Ward believes in the man. If he's doing something that appears shady, he's doing it for the right reasons. Yeah, definitely a tough sell given that Garrett was involved in activity that led to Coulson's torture and Skye's near-death, but how's Ward been sold to us since the show began? The good soldier, the specialist, the guy who makes the tough calls in the field.

Frack, just came up with a third possibility…

3. What if Ward agreed to be implanted and it's to receive commands from Coulson. In this scenario, Coulson suspected Garrett, or someone close, early on, and had Fitz-Simmons implant him (w Skye's help?). So, when he turns on Hand to save Garrett, he's acting on orders given by Coulson. AND, his sidearm would've been replaced with something that wouldn't kill his targets, but make it appear he did. AND and, the drive with all the data from The Bus that Ward is carrying is a decoy with false or corrupted data.

Crazy talk?

Maybe. But I like it. =)

Hail Hydra: Heads or limbs?

I love that Garrett and Coulson have that little back and forth about the Hydra oath, Garrett thinking that it's "Cut off a limb…" but Coulson certain that it's "Cut off a head…" From what I think I remember from my Steranko NICK FURY reprints ("Dark Moon Rise, Heck Hound Hurt" anyone? =) and forward is "limb" but yeah, in the Marvel Movie Universe so far, it's been "head." I never thought twice about the "limb" in the comics, as that works scientifically (and graphically, for when agents do that Vishnu-looking pantomime standing behind one another) in reference to the microbiological hydra. The image of a gooey microscopic organism with tentacles around its mouth doesn't seem very romantic or inspirational, tho, does it? But in the comics, they pulled it off, and it fairly described the organism's actual structure. "Head," however, evokes the mythical Hydra. Much more awe-inspiring, no? And that dude was about being multi-headed.

You can see the legacy of the change in the design of the Hydra sigil. The figure is more Cthulu than Hydra, a (red) skull with tentacles below it rather than a body with multiple heads.

I wonder if the Garrett-Coulson exchange is a pet peeve of any of the writers, heh. In any case, I appreciated the in-story wink and nod to the comic book organization.

Heh. Would be awesome if AGENTS OF SHIELD encountered a, like, 5-agent rogue Hydra group that split off over the oath. =)


A drug/extract refined from the chemistry of an extraterrestrial (perhaps extradimensional) being, a blue-skinned being whose remains were held in some kind of stasis in a lab marked T.A.H.I.T.I. at an off-the-books SHIELD facility known as The Guest House. The Guest House has been destroyed. I'd love for the being to have slipped thru a portal between worlds to Earth, but at this point, I'm thinking we've got to go with alien, and if it's a blue-skinned alien in the Marvel Universe, it's got to be Kree.

084: Skye.

Skye was an 084 before she was injected w GH-325 to save her life. The search for her origin revealed that her parents were killed, but we never get names for them, nor any mention of their species (which in most any other TV show context would not be conspicuous =). The simplest, most basic details are given: she was orphaned, her parents killed or found dead. Now, let's add a few details…

In the wake of a massive energy discharge, SHIELD agents were sent in to investigate the source. At the epicenter of the phenomenon they found the baby who would be called Skye. Her parents were found nearby, killed by gunfire. One was human, the other, unknown. They were in front of a structure built to camouflage the wreckage of a spacecraft. The bodies of armed operatives in bright yellow hazmat suits were found surrounding them. Heh.

In the Marvel Comics Universe, the Kree are either pink- or blue-skinned. I'm not certain of the differences between them besides color, but both are capable of mating with non-Kree species. The Kree Empire has a history of mucking about with the genetics of other races (including Human), effectively producing Kree hybrids with unusual abilities/characteristics. This is what Skye is. A child of love and/or science, we can't know just yet, but I'm a sucker for the stranded alien/alien spy scenario, y'know? An extraterrestrial finds itself in dire straits on Earth. Stranded (or if a spy, assigned to gather intel), it learns Earthican ways and eventually falls for humanity in general and one human in particular, and decides to make a home and a family here. But someone notices, human scientists and military or alien superiors and military.

This partially explains why Coulson's physical reaction to the GH-325 was so violently different from Skye's. I say "partially" cuz—HelLO!—he was frickin dead, everybody, remember? Hrm… I wonder when in the series of surgeries and whatnot was the GH-325 administered to Coulson.

But you know, aside from the resurrection deal, Skye's Kree-Human hybrid genetics accepted the GH-325 whereas Coulson's simply Human flesh tried to reject it.

Hey, what if GH is Skye's father? Wack!

Are the healing effects of GH-325 one-time or forever? It seems like forever, as Simmons seems to believe that Skye's blood may be the key to healing others. Coulson's tests earlier in the season revealed that he was in tip top human shape, but nothing more than that, right? No evidence of a healing factor?

Artificial Intelligence: JARVIS.

JARVIS is the first we've encountered in the Marvel Movie Universe. Built with personality, but with no indication thus far of true sentience. No independent desires or preferences save what Stark has programmed to exhibit. Back when there was no sign of a Hank Pym in the MMU, I thought that a JARVIS on board one of Stark's remote IM suits might have a comic book moment (cosmic ray exposure, hostile takeover malfunction, interception by a ghost or alien intelligence) and become sentient and ultimately become Ultron.

Artificial Intelligence: Arnim Zola.

Arnim Zola was a living human being until his mind was backed up onto millions of miles of magnetic tape. He now exists as a disembodied electronic consciousness. Presumably once the transfer was made, his body died, but we do not know that for a fact. Leaves the possibility open for the electronic Zola to be a copy of an original that might be maintained by some kind of stasis or life support, eh?

I think it's safe to assume that as technology progressed, so did his storage media. If SHIELD/Hydra was smart, they'd do everything possible to keep Zola isolated and unconnected to ARPAnet and the present day internet. Perhaps he was contained in such a way on the Lemurian Star? Hrm… But what about his coordination with the SHIELD missile launch on the bunker? I guess that could've been analog, a radio signal or voice line, but not a data line.

Maybe there are limits to what a human consciousness can do digitally, and Zola *does* have access to the internet, but can't be everywhere and see everything and maintain his scheming genius self.

What WAS that Zola that addressed Steve and Natasha in the SSR bunker? Was that a Zola "agent" or drone code that the master Zola (on the Lemurian Star) embedded in the data that Natasha duped? She described the data as protected by an intelligent encryption, right? So, once the drive was plugged into the bunker machines, it unpacked itself into a (nearly) full version of the original and did what it did.

Loki's Sceptre.

Quite an oversight by Thor and Asgard, taking the Tesseract back to Odin's Vault, but leaving behind the Sceptre, which *somehow* holds a portion of the Tesseract's energy. So far, I believe it's been established by demonstration that the Tesseract generates energy and creates stable wormholes. Regarding the Sceptre, on the energy front, it's a fraction of the "Cosmic Cube's," but a fraction of the infinite is still infinite, right? I imagine it would do a more than decent job of powering up those WW2-era Hydra weapons and any new models based on that tech.

On the wormhole front, well, the Sceptre allowed Loki to be transported thru an unregulated wormhole created in Project Pegasus. It also allowed Loki to communicate and interact with Chitauri across galactic(?) distances, something resembling astral projection.

The Sceptre, in Loki's hands, at least, also demonstrated an ability to corrupt and control those touched by it. Perhaps the effect is dependent on the wielder, tho? If Cap had used the Sceptre on anyone, perhaps their most selfless and all-American qualities and desires would come to the forefront of their personality. It would still be imposed behavior mod, but—hey!—as long as it's for the greater good, right, Cap? Oh, right, forgot about WINTER SOLDIER's that whole freedom vs. security thing. My badd.

Well, in any case, Strucker and Hydra have a fraction of the infinite to play with. What do you suppose the Baron would do with such a resource? SATAN CLAW anyone? Highly impractical, but pretty frickin iconic, right?

Keep on keepin on~

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

AGENTS OF SHIELD: Turn, turn, turn: Hand, Garrett, Ward?

Some more rambling theory-spinning crazy talk on AGENTS OF SHIELD after WINTER SOLDIER before tonight's ep…

I see three possibilities for the allegiance of Hub Director Agent Victoria Hand…

1. She's loyal trust-the-system SHIELD and answers to the SHIELD chain of command (as Hub director, would that only be Fury?). This offers two sub-options: that she's following orders from legit SHIELD, or unwittingly following orders from Hydra, perhaps with (well-hidden) misgivings. This second sub-option seems true to her comic book persona.

2. She's Hydra and in cahootz w the likes of Sitwell and Crossbones and Pierce. This would be a powerful strategic move for Hydra, as she can enlist all the resources of The Hub for Hydra objectives, without revealing Hydra itself.

3. She's Centipede and answers to the Clairvoyant. Okay, maybe she IS the Clairvoyant, but I'd rather she was another lieutenant. Either way, this would be a powerful move for the Clairvoyant for the same reasons as option 2.

By ordering some level-something something-protocol lockdown, she might effectively seal The Hub off from the events of WINTER SOLDIER, at least for a while. And by trumping up some charges on Coulson's team, or even just throwing up the "Level 8" classified wall, she can defend any moves she makes against them, including killing them. As a legit SHIELD agent, she may have received orders branding Coulson & co as traitors, and the Bus's course change might be just the manufactured or coincidental proof to back them up. I don't quite buy that Hand is responsible for the plane changing course (away from the Triskelion and Insight, btw).

Ward could easily be SHIELD's or Hydra's. I feel like he genuinely believes the Clairvoyant to be a menace and a monster, tho, so I'm gonna say he's not w CV. I don't know that his delivery sold me on the emotional duress he experienced when he cracked and shot Nash, but if I take him at his words, okay. His execution of Thomas Nash was indeed in the heat of the moment. That makes sense, as it would have been choreographed by the Clairvoyant. CV's words, pumped thru the machinery surrounding Nash, were no doubt designed to manipulate one of the agents in the room into killing Nash, as CV could *not* have him be taken into SHIELD custody alive. Ward may have been the easiest mark, or simply the first on CV's list, or served the bonus purpose of fracturing Coulson's team.

Maybe the Clairvoyant is going to use the SHIELD/Hydra schism and WINTER SOLDIER events to his advantage by outing some Hydra agents close to and on Coulson's team.

The next episode is titled "Turn, Turn, Turn," the same words that Garrett uses to describe the wheel of agents and S.O.s. Garrett trained Ward and Ward trained Skye. So, what if Garrett is Hydra, eh? That would make me really sad. Not just cuz it's Wild Bill playing him, but because he's ostensibly playing the character brought to life by Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz in ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN. Not quite as over-the-top as I remember him, but he definitely brings some cowboy swagger.

Taking "Turn, turn, turn" to heart, tho. Would Hydra Garrett have recruited Ward? Is there something in Ward's past (I'm real shaky on character histories, bleah) that would make him seem a likely convert?

And let's say he did. Would he have expected Ward in turn to convert Skye? I found their conversation before the double-blind mission to be… conspicuous. It wasn't unreasonable or unlikely, just… I dunno. Seemed to skip a few beats somehow. Maybe he was fishing for a Hydra call and response? Third degree burn, nerve endings, gut shot?

Keep on keepin on~

AGENTS OF SHIELD: The Clairvoyant: Hail Hydra?

Some more rambling on the Clairvoyant, incorporating some events and intel revealed in CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER.


Let's say Clair Voyant, aka CV, is a SHIELD agent who's been recruited by Hydra. Let's say CV moved up the ranks of both organizations, to a level high enough to gain access to Zola's work, specifically the Insight Algorithm, perhaps an Alpha or Beta, y'know? Not in its ultimate, Hydra-ted form. CV sees a way to exploit the Algorithm for his own personal agenda, copies/steals it, and begins using it to plan and predict. The first thing CV would do would be to hide himself from both sides. How? Modifying his SHIELD file to project a competent, loyal, sufficiently high-level, but not trouble-making operative, basically painting the picture of a successful but forgettable drone.

What agenda?

I like the Clairvoyant as having a personal stake and/or a high ideal as the drive behind his clandestine machinations. On the surface, it seems like CV's operations, aka Centipede, are focused on the development and acquisition of exotic weaponry. I don't think we've seen that weaponry applied in the support of a particular ideology, right? Seems mostly like an arms dealer on the surface, traveling in the same circles as alien tech scavengers and exiled cybercriminals, right?

Not very satisfying to me, but that might be enough. Especially as a til-now-phantom-like third party in the SHIELD-Hydra dynamic. A mercenary villain, building an enhanced mercenary army for hire.

Wow. Can you imagine Hydra getting SHIELD on the ropes at some point in the WINTER SOLDIER struggle and Coulson cutting a deal with the Clairvoyant to *hire* his forces to help SHIELD? And maybe Hydra counters, but CV sticks w Coulson, as he can be trusted while Hydra certainly cannot.

What if CV tweaked Insight to do more than hide himself, but also cripple Hydra, perhaps out of philosophical disagreement? That would be a nice touch. Like when the mob turns its Tommy Guns on the Nazis instead of the cops, cuz, F that—Nazis! Y'know?

So, on the surface, Centipede looks like an exotic arms developer and dealer and super army for hire. But what does the Clairvoyant really want out of this? What end would this be a means to? Well, it's the creation of a force that can stand toe-to-toe with SHIELD and perhaps Avengers. I've gone on quite a bit about my wild hopes that there is time or dimensional travel involved, that the Clairvoyant doesn't just have SHIELD files from the present, but from the future as well. Well, the algorithm renders that unnecessary. So, maybe CV has used the algorithm and discovered an imminent Earthican catastrophe—Insight itself? The rise of a supervillain or superpowered force? The age of Ultron?—and created Centipede as a pre-emptive strike or defense against it. Or as a force against which SHIELD (and Hydra?) can be tempered and strengthened, to better face this coming apocalypse.

I say Earthican because the algorithm operates on recorded personal history and data, and we can assume that CV would only have access to human information…

Or can we? What if CV is an extraterrestrial, or has access to extraterrestrial data? Perhaps the algorithm, applied to an ET-net, revealed that another battle in the higher form of war is going to take place on Earth soon and in his way is helping to arm and prepare the adorable Earthicans.

Would be a nice comic booky "Humans Number One!" to have a mad Earthling scientist develop something like the algorithm that no one's seen applied in the rest of the galaxy. Hari Seldon's psychohistory, anyone?

Or, we go back to one of my old theories that doesn't require ET data or the algorithm, but simply Nick Fury's do-what-has-to-be-done-to-protect-humanity directive. SHIELD as the world knows it is too massive (so massive that it's unwittingly become home to Hydra as well) and transparent (compartmentalized, sure, but everything is logged somewhere) to do the dirty work needed to properly defend the Earth in a higher form of war. So, Nick sets up an independent rogue op, completely disavowed and unconnected to SHIELD, to develop weapons and soldiers in the wild, to fund itself any way it needs to, and then to get big enough that it has to lock horns with SHIELD, and in that conflict, SHIELD gets smarter, stronger, and when it wins, acquires weapons that it would otherwise have been unable (read also as unallowed) to ethically and safely develop on its own.

Keep on keepin on~

Monday, April 07, 2014

WINTER AGENTS: syncing up CAP2 and AOS redux ramble

Then again…

How about we try this without being so impatient? Not as much fun, but we do have most of half a season to go, right? =)

]]] WINTER SOLDIER SPOILERS (and the usual crazy talk) FOLLOW [[[

In AGENTS OF SHIELD: End of the Beginning… Before Victoria Hand returns to The Hub, she relays that Agent Sitwell is to report to the Lemurian Star. This is the SHIELD barge that Cap and the Widow are sent to free from Batroc and his pirate mercs (enlisted by Nick Fury). This doesn't necessarily mean that Batroc strikes immediately on Sitwell's arriving at the Star. He may have been there for days or even weeks before he's taken hostage.

Although… In WINTER SOLDER, we *do* get the apparently superfluous information that the Star has been held by the pirates for 93 hours when Cap and Nat are brought in, right? That's almost four days of time that begins sometime after Sitwell arrives. How much time do we think passes in the course of the events of "End of the Beginning?" Could it have been four days?

*Maybe.* But if AGENTS OF SHIELD needs more time for Agents-vs-Clairvoyant to play out before Fury's apparent death, they can write it in easily enough. Just extend Sitwell's time on the Lemurian Star before Batroc takes the ship. So, if it "helps," everything that happens in last week's episode happens BEFORE Cap, Nat, and the Strike Team board the Lemurian Star. That potentially opens up weeks in the AGENTS timeline before SHIELD has to be dissolved. Coulson may have a chance to speak to Fury before his death, and with Insight and Hydra on his mind, he would definitely clue Coulson into a contingency plan/mission.

Actually, going along with the notion that May is reporting to Fury, let's take her report to Coulson that Fury has returned (from wherever/whatever) as legit. Assuming that Nick hasn't been dodging Coulson specifically (which is what it's seemed like from within AGENTS), that would have happened *before* Cap meets Nick in WINTER SOLDIER, right? That by itself significantly extends the amount of time between the events of "End of the Beginning" and WINTER SOLDIER.

Are we gonna let AGENTS OF SHIELD get away with no mention of Insight's satellites? The three carriers, well, okay. Let's say they're ultra super top secret. Altho launching them from the heart of D.C. seems counter-intelligent, no? Okay, okay, fine. Let's say that despite the fact that everyone in the Triskellion seems to know about Insight, it's been compartmentalized tightly enough that none of our AGENTS would know about it and discuss, refer to, or gossip about it.

Hrm… All of SHIELD's files were released to the interwebs. That means the Index and Skye's history are Out There, right? Hrm…

There's no need to bring Hydra into AGENTS, altho it would certainly be cool and bold. As I keep saying, for me, Clairvoyant ≠ Hydra. Way more interesting for me if they do bring Hydra in as an enemy of the Clairvoyant as well. Hrm… 

What if the multiple choice options for "To whom is Agent May reporting?" are actually…?
  1. Nick Fury - SHIELD
  2. The Clairvoyant - Centipede
  3. Hydra - SHIELD
Answer 3 would be frickin cool. Hell, what if Victoria Hand is Hydra and she wants to quash the Clairvoyant as badly as Coulson and co? Which way would the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" dynamic swing things in that scenario, eh? Agents + Centipede vs. Hydra? Or Agents vs. Hydra vs. Centipede?

Hrm… You know what. For the Clairvoyant's prop gambit to work, Thomas Nash could not be allowed to survive as a prisoner of SHIELD. If Ward truly did fire because of emotional duress or whatever, someone else in the room was ready to do the job. Or Nash would somehow have to appear to provoke an attack. Altho… Frack. I guess the Clairvoyant would be able to push anyone's and everyone's buttons in that room in order to get that desired result. For whatever reason, probably to screw w Coulson's team, Clair chose Ward for the job.

Try to forget about the Clairvoyant. If Hydra does wrap a tentacle head around AGENTS, who would be the most likely target for Hydra recruiting? I kind of like Fitz for that. Agent May, sure. She's been thru hell for SHIELD and as a result might be susceptible to the right pitch from Hydra. But Fitz! C'mon, that would be way more fun! It's played for comic relief, but you see the flashes of resentment and superiority beneath his nerdy Brit surface, don't you? He might be science-nerdy enough to appreciate the Hydra philosophy as something elegant, or perhaps something incredibly naive but convenient. Man, that would be Something. =)

Curious. Hand is quite insistent on having Simmons join her at The Hub, ostensibly to brief her agents as SHIELD's expert on Deathlok. Nah. Simmons couldn't be Hydra w Hand. If Hand wants Simmons at The Hub, it's because she/the Clairvoyant is counting on her bringing Skye's blood sample with her for study.

Compartmentalize the information. Skye's double blind protocol. Could be an illustration of Agent May's situation, believing she's working for Fury, but actually reporting to someone else?

Okay, am I totally arguing w myself now? *sigh* Allright, enough w the crazy talk…

…for now. =)

To address what I originally meant to walk thru…

The next eps of AGENTS OF SHIELD could be playing out before or during the events of WINTER SOLDIER. I *want* it to be during, with Fury's return (announced by May in "End of the Beginning") marking the completion of some off-the-grid counter-intel work (investigating Hydra corruption and setting up Batroc's Starjacking). I want for Centipede to be distinct from Hydra. I'd love for there to be a three-way battle/struggle.

And I'd really like for Nick Fury to be "wearing" Victoria Hand's eye to gain Alpha-level access to SHIELD's files at the end of WINTER SOLDIER. =)

Keep on keepin on~


Some scattin' on the "GH" in GH-325. Most are tweets from the night the episode aired. Note that when I first saw the episode, I wasn't sure if the specimen's skin/surface color was actually blue or tinted blue by lighting and the cryo tube. Since then, Coulson has described the creature as "blue" on the show.
GH-325 Infinity Formula? Super Soldier Serum? Captain America blood? Wolverine blood? Red Skull blood?
Is GH actually blue-skinned? Tint from cryo tube/suspension? Centaurian (Yondu)? Kree (Ronan)? Frost Giant? G for Giant?
GH… George Harrison? =)
GH… G for Gilgamesh? aka Forgotten One. Eternals, anyone?
GH… Maybe it's where the being was found/recovered? Ghana?
GH… Glenn Hughes? =)
GH… Green Hantern? =)
GH… Gamma Hydra? Heh. A star, but man, look at those words in Marvel light, right? =)
GH… H for hormone? Harvest (as in organs)? Humanoid?
GH… GREY HULK?! A secret history 1960s gamma bomb test survivor who ultimately died or had to be put down?
GH… H for "Hala?"
I really like G for "Giant" and H for "Hala." Unfortunately, those would be mutually exclusive. G for Giant as in Frost Giant would be a great fit as collateral damage from the portals created during THOR 2. H for Hala as in the Kree homeworld would be kind of perfect because Coulson reacted violently to GH-325 treatment while Skye (a "natural" 084) took to it rather easily, indicating that Skye has Kree blood in her. I'm pretty certain that blue and pink cree are NOT different species, so a pink Kree Skye should be able to accept a transfusion of blue Kree chemistry. Hrm… Might be an indicator of Kree genetic manipulation as well, eh? Inhuman Skye?

Would be an interesting way to introduce mutants into the MMU without "mutants." Having the Kree genetically tinkering with human stock over millennia, resulting in something along the lines of the recent Inhumanity phenom in the MCU.

What about T.A.H.I.T.I.?

They're all happier in the ice?

Geep hon geepin hon~

WINTER AGENTS: syncing up CAP2 and AOS…

I made some connections between AGENTS and WINTER SOLDIER when doing my post-movie debrief ramble, but let me try and think it thru in more detail…

]]] WINTER SOLDIER SPOILERS (and the usual crazy talk) FOLLOW [[[

(Note that this is based on the assumption that events of AGENTS and SOLDIER sync up as soon as possible. Here's a ramble that allows for more time.)

In AGENTS OF SHIELD: End of the Beginning… Before Victoria Hand returns to The Hub, she relays that Agent Sitwell is to report to the Lemurian Star. This is the SHIELD barge that Cap and the Widow are sent to free from Batroc and his pirate mercs (enlisted by Nick Fury).

In AGENTS OF SHIELD: End of the Beginning… May relays to Coulson that Fury is back on the grid. He can contact him to discuss his problem/s. Not sure where this falls in relation to WINTER SOLDIER, but there's definitely no news of Fury's death/assassination in the episode, so it must be before Fury's shot.

In AGENTS OF SHIELD: End of the Beginning… Fitz attempts to set up a secure hard line between The Bus and Simmons at The Hub. He succeeds in getting a broken signal, and while he's working on it, Simmons explains that there's a sudden burst of activity, that a group of agents have stormed the situation room. I *thought* this would have lined up with Steve Rogers's outing of the Hydra tendrils in SHIELD, but none of the Agents have heard about Fury's assassination, right? So, this must be early in the course of WINTER SOLDIER. Perhaps it's a reaction to Fury's assassination/death, which happened at 2am or so, D.C. time, I think? When Fitz cuts May's line, perhaps he cut all comms on The Bus? In any case, in the minutes following that, everyone on The Bus is engaged in gunpointing and doubletalking, right? No time to acknowledge a message from the Triskelion about Fury's death.

In AGENTS OF SHIELD: End of the Beginning… Fitz does a wonderfully lame job of talking his way out of the cockpit and mentions their imminent landing at the Triskelion (to deliver Ward). Perhaps the course change that The Bus makes—a flying U-turn—is made remotely, or pre-programmed and triggered, as part a Nicholas Fury contingency plan: if things get messy (i.e. I have to fake my death) get Coulson and his team as far away from Hydra/SHIELD as possible. Perhaps The Bus and Coulson's team is MMU Fury's Secret Warriors, his answer to a Hydra-corrupted SHIELD, outfitted with last generation equipment (which might make them safe from certain modern technological vulnerabilities) and an eclectic mix of operatives and specialties, including two 084s (one natural—Skye, one man made—Coulson) and their highly skilled watcher (Agent May, reporting to Fury).

In AGENTS OF SHIELD: End of the Beginning… Victoria Hand at The Hub issues orders to bring down that plane (The Bus) and kill everyone on board except Agent Coulson. Hrm... No interest in Skye? Perhaps because she already has her blood at The Hub, thanks to Simmons. The latest this could be in the events of WINTER SOLDIER would have to be Fury's death. Hand would not show her hand as a Hydra minion yet, but maybe The Hub has been strategically staffed with Hydra, and Hand doesn't need to take over by force. But—SOMETHING happened that Simmons mentioned over the static-y secure line… Perhaps Hand, directed by Pierce, used the Fury assassination as pretense to apprehend potential troublemakers, which would include all of Coulson's team. Not sure if I remember enough to piece together a decent string of logic to explain that, tho. Is there a way to connect the dots from Wade killing the supposed Clairvoyant (Dourif) to Fury's assassination by an unknown/ghost (Winter Soldier).

So, the next chunk of this season of AGENTS OF SHIELD plays out in the course of the second two-thirds or so of WINTER SOLDIER, after Fury's assassination. In the epilogue of the season finale, I hope to see Coulson speaking loudly and clearly, knowingly at Fury's grave (the place that Cap is supposed to send anyone who wants to see Nick), as we pop thru the headstone's surveillance camera and monitor to see Nick watching, listening, and grinning at Coulson's report from some unlikely safe house. Maybe across the street from Cap? An office in Stark Tower? Working a food truck? Renting a room at Aunt May's? Heh.

Oh—I know! Coulson shows up at Fury's grave to drop off the objective of his final mission as a SHIELD agent: the eyeball of Victoria Hand. For Nick to have inserted into his socket before returning to the Triskelion near the end of WINTER SOLDIER. =)

I know it looks like Victoria could be Clair Voyant, but I'd really like for her to be yet another link in the chain.

And, I'd still like for Centipede and the Clairvoyant to be something separate from cut-off-one-head-two-more-shall-take-its-place Hydra. Perhaps the Clairvoyant went double-rogue, lifted Zola's algorithm for a specific, not as high-minded as forcing freedom on the thankless masses purpose, but what? Making lots of money via exotic weaponry? Seems kind of lame and base to me. Gotta be something bigger and better. Maybe the exotic weaponry is means to a more personal end.

I want it to be personal somehow. Involvement of time or dimensional travel a bonus. =)

Maybe it's to take down SHIELD and Hydra for something they did to the Clairvoyant? Or *will* do?

I want the Agents vs. Clair + Centipede to outlast the mothballing of SHIELD.

Hrm… AIM, anyone? =)

Oh, and cuz I haven't said enough crazy but totally likely stuff yet this post… Is Skye Spider-Woman? Or Ms. Marvel? Kree flesh wouldn't reject Kree chemistry the way human chemistry would, right? We've been told that her parents died, but we were never told they were human, right?

RE: Dourif as the Clairvoyant prop. Man! That was some lovely wonderful brilliant casting and yarn spinning! Casting Bard Dourif and not hiding it (having his name, plain as can be, in the opening credits) was a stroke of simple genius.
Brad Dourif? O man, he's *totally* the Clairvoyant! Why else would you get Brad Dourif? I'll bet I'm the 167th to tweet it, too! Duh, Internet!
But hey, not only is this the Marvel Universe, but a chunk of the Whedonverse, so think about it, people! Who's gonna take sweet, sugary convention, like casting Brad Dourif as your vile evildoer, and then punch you in the stomach while you're lapping it up?

But, y'know, in the supercoolest way possible? In the way to which you can only respond: thank you, sir, may I have another?

I'll tell you who: a Whedon. Or TWO, even! Nicely frickin done, MoJed. =)

Keep on keepin on~

Friday, April 04, 2014


Caught it at an early show tonight. A very satisfying Marvel movie experience. But then, I already felt I got my money's worth when I got the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY trailer followed by GODZILLA! =)

A moment of sadness at not living in the universe in which Marvel has the film rights to Godzilla, allowing them to bring bits and pieces of the GODZILLA comic book to the big screen—G v. SHIELD and the Avengers! Thor and Godzilla in a shoving match with the Empire State Building caught in the middle! Shogun Warriors!

O well. *sigh*

I was saying, satisfying, but not what I would call wonderful. I *LOVE* THE FIRST AVENGER. It was a near perfect film for me in so many smart, clever, joyful, button-pushing ways. This one doesn't deliver that brand of nickelodeon adventure joy. It's darker, more "grown-up," and that change fairly reflects the change in eras within and without the Marvel movie universe continuum, FIRST AVENGER being about a character living and fighting in WW2 who was drawn and inked in the 40s in bright propaganda reds, whites, and blues, and WINTER SOLDIER retelling a story originally written in the 21st century with all of its frustrating gray areas. But there is no chance that it will bore you. There's a lot of action sugar to help the darker themed medicine go down.

Hadn't thought of it at all while reading the comics, but if you're just a little poetic, "Winter Soldier" can refer to either Cap or Bucky, and even Nick if you push a bit. The comic places the Soldier's origin in Russian cover ops, which makes "Winter Soldier" a logical code name: cold war, Russia, and all. It also works because in between ops, he is kept literally on ice in cryosleep. Winter also evokes a lateness in time that reflects both Steve and Bucky's chronological, if not lived, years. Being out of time, y'know? And of course, it is about cold. And who's the coldest warrior we know in the MMU? Nick Fury. Bloodstained Captain America trading cards, anyone? =)

The film's action for me is generally a bit sterile and mechanical but definitely has its moments. I felt oddly uncomfortable with the amount of carnage and the body count delivered by the film. For better or worse, it's totally appropriate to the story, but I just didn't enjoy most of it. Probably the correct, responsible response, tho, and I guess that comes with the darker territory of the film.

I will say that I totally dig seeing Cap's shield *spang* back into his hands after a combo strike, but I did find myself wanting something different in the sounds of its contacts and strikes.

Allright, I'm just gonna start scattin on what comes to mind, so if you continue, you are entering SPOILER territory…
Cap vs. Batroc! Nicely shot face-off, almost Capcom arcade gamey, heh. And while the Leaper did get a lot of good hits in (he might've won by points in a tournament =), he's outmatched by the super soldier in strength (as a result, not sure about skill—would've been nice to have seen Rogers training in various martial arts in *any* of the movies so far, or even a reference to SHIELD basic or an instructor). I would've liked for Batroc to do better vs. Cap, but, well, he *is* Batroc, right? Heh. And he was the first "boss" in the film. Their fight helps us calibrate our notion of how superhuman Cap is.

Batroc! Good wardrobe. Subtle color choices made him appear comic-book Batroc when in action vs. Cap. Not sure if I'm disappointed that we didn't hear him challenge Steve in heavily accented English. =)

Right away I'm feeling the darkness of this sector of the MMU and this film. Watching Cap mercilessly take out the pirates holding the Lemurian Star just doesn't sit easy with my image of him from the comics. MAYbe he's using nonlethal force when possible, but it looks like he's not pulling any of his enhanced punches (which look pretty awesome/fearsome).

The Black Widow also goes in with tiny pistols blazing. I really wish that we got to see Tony Stark or SHIELD outfit her with ballistic or distance Widow's Bites. They seem to work as close-up tazers, not blasters or projectile launchers. It's easier to see that, tho, given Natasha's modern day covert ops background. Are her throwing discs a standard in the Widow's arsenal? Maybe they'd do better launched from one of the barrels of her bites, instead? First I thought that it was some kind of contact EMP device, but later I realized that it's a kind of tazer. It tries to fry whatever it lands on, i.e. Winter's cybernetic arm or the badge that Pierce tricks Natasha into wearing.

Lemurian Star. I'm fairly certain I heard Fury and Cap call it "Lumerian" a couple of times while others called it "Lemurian." Would've been nice to be consistent and correct, but maybe it's a subtle sign of derision of the corruption/infiltration of its crew by Hydra?

The Lumerian Star was referred to earlier this week in AGENTS, which I thought was significant. Yes, it refers to a once hypothetical ancient (sunken, I think?) continent, now rendered impossible by modern plate tectonic theory. However, it also refers to the very Marvel-real original home of the Deviants, monstrous counterparts to the Eternals. Also, realms and denizens connected to Atlantis (an offshoot of Atlanteans) and the Savage Land. MMU-wise, introducing Atlantis would be pretty sweet altho I feel it would require/deserve some the retcon-insertion of The Invaders during WW2—Cap, Namor, and the Human Torch (check out the Stark Expo in the first Cap movie =). But that seems like a lot of work, no?

What would be an easier and fit would be the Savage Land. How awesome would that be? Maybe a High Evolutionary storyline? Perhaps he could be the end-credits villain reveal of an Ant-Man/Ka-zar team-up? =)

Arnim Zola! Where the heck is his primary brain now? It was originally housed under Cap's old SSR training camp in Jersey, which apparently become one of the first SHIELD facilities. SHIELD or Hydra, if I was dealing with Zola, I'd do everything possible to keep him contained in a closed network, cut off from the wilds of the Internet. Was his primary consciousness transferred to the Lemurian Star? That would make sense to me. Was the intelligent encryption that Natasha copied from the Star some kind of Zola "agent" that independently knew to reactivate the old tape drives and stall Cap and Natasha and sacrifice its self/instance in the missile strike on the bunker?

Wherever he was, he's still at large. A disembodied digital consciousness. An awesome interpretation of Zola for the big screen from the comic book. Do Zola and JARVIS get it on in some corner of the deep web and birth Ultron? So great to see the Project Paperclip era tech. =)

The Insight Algorithm?! Where the heck is this? On what computers/drives is it stored? It was on the computers on the Lemurian Star. It was backed up—AI-encrypted and unreadable—to the thumb drive by Natasha. It was apparently in the computers of the Insight satellites, added or activated (I can't remember) by Hydra cronies (that's when we see one of the Insight helicarrier screens identifying targets on the ground in the White House and Stark Tower and (who the heck was standing in the middle of?) that baseball field or park.

It sounds like Zola had developed this some time ago, so Hydra must have been using it to help with their campaign to sow chaos and drive humanity to the point where it would willingly give up its freedoms/privacy (gotta say, I appreciate the dark theme, if presented overly dramatically as the purpose of Hydra). Would be nice to have the history of the algorithm revealed in upcoming AGENTS OF SHIELD eps.

Does WINTER SOLDIER Insight Algorithm = AGENTS OF SHIELD Clairvoyant? I kind of hope not. I'd made the suggestion that Clair is more Hari Seldon than Amazing Kreskin, and the algorithm is exactly the tool to back that up. Zola's algorithm = Seldon's psychohistory.

Brock Rumlow! (aka Crossbones!) Nice way to bring him in. I think it was kind of masterful and economical writing putting so much bad-guy-ness under the tentacled arms of Hydra. Looking forward to seeing him resurrected and improved in a future Cap flick. I never quite got his loyalty to Red Skull in the comics (I thought of him as more of a merc than a true believer), but I can see how he'd follow Strucker and Hydra in his movie incarnation. "There is order in pain," he says. Or something like that. Wackjob.

Cap and Natasha are Level 6. When Pierce gives Winter Soldier his final mission, he describes the targets as Level 6.

Zola's algorithm would identify anyone who could threaten Hydra, including Stephen Strange! =)

On Fury's headstone: The path of the righteous man… =)

Senator Shandling: "Hail Hydra!" =)

Nick Fury's eye?! Aka, proof of his Alpha-level clearance identity. He lost it the last time (the one time) he trusted someone. It seems like he's talking about Pierce and Bogota, when he disobeyed orders and rescued Pierce's daughter. But that didn't actually require him to trust Pierce, did it? The result of that action was that Pierce trusted Fury, and became a believer in what he took to be Fury's way. Still, I'm there was something in the delivery of some of Nick's lines regarding losing his eye that seemed to point the finger at Pierce, no? Dammit, I'll hafta watch again soon. =)

Pierce does say that Nick already took a bullet for him. We saw that happen when Winter popped him thru Cap's window. But maybe he wasn't referring to that?

Nah. I'd say it's 95% likely he was. Foo.

Anyhow, we've always heard that it's been LOST, right? That under the eyepatch, we'd expect to see a socket or scar tissue but definitely not an organic eyeball. Frustrating when we see him dead on the gurney in profile, with his right eye hidden from view—argh! But in the end, he shows us, and surprises Pierce with, his other eye, which when scanned releases SHIELD's (and Hydra's) data to the Twitters. Heh.

I want to believe that he DID lose his eye. I want to believe that they eyeball that he reveals is not his eye, but someone else's. Someone who has Alpha-level clearance or whatever they called it. Victoria Hand, perhaps? =)

Does that sound crazy? Well, does it sound crazier than the notion that SHIELD, in its bureaucratic precision, decided to revoke all of Fury's codes and biometrics, but were so mind-numbingly utilitarian and practical about it that they only revoked those codes and biometrics that Fury could supposedly actually use? And, since all SHIELD's records indicate that Fury no longer has a left eye (but did back when he joined SHIELD, before Bogota) there would be no reason to delete that retinal scan from Alpha-level access.

Like when the gunners on Vader's Star Destroyer decide to conserve "blaster ammo" or whatever and not destroy Artoo and Threepio's escape pod? =)

I like how when the council is dressing Pierce down for hiring and supporting Fury as director when he's the one responsible for Batroc, the attempted data heist, and sabotaging Insight, that it so nicely fits into the picture that Pierce is painting for the need for Insight. Some smooth plotting.

A lot of things click nicely into place as the story moves along, but I would not have minded swapping out 10 minutes of action for character and relationship building. I'm bringing my own comic-book-assimilated Cap-Bucky history with me to this. I'm not sure that a flashback and one line ("to the end of the line") sells that to me if all I know is what's in the movie/s. I do like that Cap is so ready to believe he's back, tho.

Sam Wilson! You will believe a man can fly! I love the Falcon exo-rig or whatever it is. I would've liked to have seen some logo or brand attached to it somewhere (did I miss it on the dossier folder?). Introducing him as the outsider who can help Cap and Nat on the run was well done, and "on your left" was pretty irresistible for me.

No one ever says Agent 13's last name. Her first name is Sharon, and if this character is a one-for-one from the comic books, her last name ought to be Carter, which would make her Peggy Carter's daughter (or maybe granddaughter, I forget). Maybe Marvel-Disney is debating the creepiness of a 95-yo Capsicle dating the granddaughter of his not-exactly widow from WW2 before revealing her back story, eh?

Epilogue 1. Baron Strucker in some research facility where Hydra scientists are studying Loki's spear. You know, the one that seems to contain a piece of the Tesseract? It *seems* like the flunky who's speaking to Strucker refers to the facility as something legit that's a cover for Hydra activity. First thing I thought of was a revived Project Pegasus, which would make sense since the first one was studying the Tesseract at the start of THE AVENGERS. Strucker's walking around in the open in this place, tho, so I'm thinking it must be a hidden lab, period. Or maybe a hidden lab beneath a legit lab or complex. The flunky mentions "the volunteers" and the Baron explains that the dead will be buried deep, so disposed of and covered up. Then flunky mentions "the survivors," and the Baron refers to "the twins." As the twins are revealed to be Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, the Baron declares the present to be an age of miracles, and describes them as…"horrible," I think? I was kind of hoping to hear "age of marvels," but maybe that line's being saved for a different speaker and moment. Pietro looks properly ticked off and Wanda looks wonderfully potentially out of her mind. I wonder what kind of countermeasures are built into their cells.

Epilogue 2. Back to the Captain American exhibit at the Smithsonian. Earlier we saw Steve Rogers visit it incognito, civilian togs and baseball cap pulled down over his eyes. Now we see a similar figure and when he approaches the Bucky Barnes section, we see that it's Winter Soldier. Is he remembering, or learning? Either way, he's alive and hanging around, at least for the time being, in D.C. Steve and Sam won't have that far to go.

AGENTS OF SHIELD: End of the Beginning. In this week's episode, before the agents deploy in double-blind fashion to identify/apprehend candidates for Clairvoyant, Victoria Hand relays orders to Agent Sitwell to report to the Lemurian Star. She also excuses herself from the op, claiming that she must return to the Hub to pull their fat out of the fire when the time comes. In WINTER SOLDIER, Cap is sent to rescue Sitwell and the SHIELD crew of the Lemurian Star, held hostage by mercenary pirates led by Batroc.

AGENTS OF SHIELD: End of the Beginning. When Fitz attempts to set up the secure hard line between himself on The Bus and Simmons at the The Hub, he gets a not-great connection and the last thing he hears from Simmons is something about a group of agents storming the situation room. This could be a response to Steve Rogers's announcement at the Triskelion, outing Pierce, Insight, and the STRIKE (I'm assuming that's an acronym =) team as Hydra. The end of WINTER SOLDIER shows all of our cinematic SHIELD stars parting ways, implying that SHIELD has, in fact, been dissolved. However, who knows just how long it takes to make that happen, right?

AGENTS OF SHIELD, moving forward… Is Victoria Hand the Clairvoyant? I'd be okay with that after the wonderful Brad Dourif sleight-of-hand. But I'd be much happier if she's yet another link in the chain.

Is Victoria Hand and/or the Clairvoyant a stooge of Hydra? Hrm… I'd like for Clair to be something different, completely unaffiliated (and from the future =). If not that, then someone who's taken a pledge to both SHIELD and Hydra and turned on both of them to create their own operation, aka Centipede. They've got a Deathlok in the field, and with the acquisition of Mike Peterson—a stabilized Centiped super soldier—they supposedly have the key to "Stage 3" of their Centipede soldiers.

Nit. I would've thought that Cap would hold his shield between Nat and himself and the explosion when jumping thru the window to avoid it on the Lemurian Star. Instead, he uses the shield on the window (which Natasha has already shot twice).

Nit. I would've liked to have seen Cap land on his shield on his feet when jumping from the Triskelion. His shield is supposed to absorb like 99.9999% of the kinetic energy thrown at it, right? Or is that not established in the MMU? Hrm. In the comics, do bullets hit his shield and just drop to the ground? I *liked* seeing him redirect the chain gunfire at other baddies, but hafta wonder how dangerous that would be for bystanders, right?

This isn't everything, but it's as much as I can put together semi-coherently just now. More later. =)

Keep on keepin on~