Sunday, May 2, 2021

Order in the (Marvel) universe (Part V)

Over the last few months we've been keeping ourselves sane by rewatching the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in chronological order of events, including the TV series. A mammoth undertaking, but it has been a heck of a lot of fun.

Last post (you can read here) was a fairly large section as we worked through Season Three of Agents of SHIELD, and the movies in that timezone. We were just about to start Season Four of SHIELD, so how far have we got in the last three/four weeks?


Season Four of Agents of SHIELD is one of my favourite seasons of the show, as it did a brilliant thing by splitting into three defined arcs - which perfectly tied together. The first arc, 'Ghost Rider', sees Daisy off by herself, going rogue and investigating the strange flaming figure that is enacting harsh justice. The Ghost Rider arc is flipping great, and as much as I love Nicholas Cage, this arc of a TV series pulled off the Ghost Rider far better than either movie ever did. So cool. Gabriel Luna is fantastic as Robbie Reyes, the latest host of the Rider. And they tap into the comics with the version of the Rider who drives an awesome car with flaming tires, rather than riding a bike. Great stuff.

Anyway, we get to the end of Episode Six, and stop. Coulson, Fitz, and Robbie disappear - shunted into another dimension. And we leave it there? Why? Well, in casual conversations, we've already learned of alternate dimensions. But those strange 'magical' powers that certainly aren't the superpowers we've seen before. So we stop in our SHIELD watching to learn all about magic with the Sorcerer Supreme...


Okay, I'm going to confess that I'm a HUGE Doctor Strange fan. Haven't read an awful lot of it since my childhood when I was reading the UK reprints in 'Super Spider-Man and the Titans', and that artwork - that Gene Colan artwork - was just mesmerising and haunting. I read the run when Chris Bachalo did the artwork (because I love Bachalo's art) but I have a real love for those classic Strange comics.

Doctor Strange was one of those Marvel movies I really had high hopes for, and the result (Directed by Scott Derrickson - who directed the scariest movie I think I've seen, 'Sinister') did not disappoint. Cumberbatch was brilliant, the right level of arrogant learning to be selfless, and another couple of my favourite actors in there too - Chiwetel Ejiofor (who I still think should be the next Doctor Who), and Mads Mikkelsen (the best Bond villain to date). Just great. Mind-boggling special effects. Like Inception turned up to eleven. I wrote a blog post about it a long time ago...

Doctor Strange introduces the 'magic' and explains about power coming from other dimensions. Just what you need to know ready for the return to SHIELD. However, before we return, there's another movie to watch in this order...


Black Panther is a great movie, but watching it now is really hard. Amazing cast with some huge award winning names in there. I mean, Daniel Kaluuya is always great - remember him in The Fades with SHIELD's Fitz? And Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, and Angela Bassett and Forest Whittaker. There is nothing to let this movie down. Not a huge fan of Killmonger as a villain, but it all works, and I love Winston Duke's M'Baku. Duke is such a presence when he's on screen. 

But Chadwick Boseman. Oh lord, he was just so good, a perfect T'Challa. A powerful performance, with a playful humour, and it's just all tinged with emotion after his loss. Such a tragedy. 

After those movies, it's back to Agents of SHIELD Season Four - we know about magic, so it's back to those we've left trapped in another dimension. With Aida accessing the scary occult tome (possibly the one missing from the shelves in Doctor Strange) the Darkhold (which we'll see again in WandaVision), she uses the book to open portals into the other dimension to help our trapped agents back - but that's just the start of Aida's descent. The ever deluded Holden Radcliffe's artificial creation is setting things up for the second arc of this season...

After just two more episodes of Agents of SHIELD, episodes 7 & 8, we take another break - venturing off to Youtube for some SHIELD I'd not seen before - Slingshot.


Must admit, I didn't even know this existed, so this was all new to me. The six parts together have a total running time of about 20-25 mins, but it tells an interesting flashback story of Yo-Yo Rodriguez, and an 'off the books' mission. It ties in nicely and provides some much needed spotlight to a great character, and sets up the next arc in Season Four...

Agents of SHIELD: LMD - or 'Life Model Decoy'. They've established at the end of the previous arc that Aida is up to something, and that one of the agents in the team has been replaced by a 'Life Model Decoy', but this arc is a great example of complete paranoia getting out of control. No one can trust anyone else, as Aida continues to gradually replace more and more of the team with lifelike android duplicates, placing the human originals in a hyper-realistic simulation called 'The Framework'. 

Just great again, absolutely love it. It gives all of the actors chance to do something different, and the absolutely heartbreaking standoff between Fitz and Simmons as they are convinced one is an LMD... 

But again, this leads perfectly into the third and final arc of the Season...

Agents of HYDRA is a scary sudden change if you've not been following it. HYRDA is in charge, rounding up Inhumans, and the agents we're familiar with are scattered. But thankfully, this is all a simulation. Part of Holden Radcliffe's Framework, Aida's calculations to make the subjects immersed in the simulation both accepting of the environment, and resolve their deepest regret, creates a world where SHIELD fell, HYDRA won, and a lot of that is down to Agent May's actions in the past. Not making the hard decision lead to a world of paranoia and totalitarianism. 



It's another great arc, and Iain De Caestekker plays the HYRDA commander with chilling aplomb. Aida (Malory Jansen) is now within the Framework as well, as Madame Hydra, who has been using the Framework simulation to gain knowledge of Inhuman physiology to create a human (or rather Inhuman) body in the real world for when she emerges. She's almost unstoppable, but thankfully they've set up the perfect solution three arcs ago right back at the beginning of the season. Nice!!

Like most series, the season ends with a cliffhanger - the agents (though not all of them) are frozen and removed, taken off to a space station in Earth's future...

Before we move onto the next season, it's back to the movies.


Spider-man: Homecoming has a slight error in the dating for the prologue, but we'll ignore that one. Other than that, it's just about a perfect Spidey movie. Tom Holland is great, but Michael Keaton takes a villain I remember from my childhood and makes them so much cooler. The Vulture was always a bit 'meh' in the comics, but it was a brilliant interpretation, using the Chitauri tech, incorporating the fur collar in the suit. Awesome. And that scene when Peter's in the car on the way to Homecoming... so freakin' tense. Brilliant. 

And I love the subtle comic influences for other villains in there too. The Shocker's another one I remember from my childhood, and the way they used the yellow 'quilted' looking sleeves like the comics on both iterations of the Shocker. Great!

And hints of the Scorpion too... 







Continuing the movies, it's onto the third Thor movie, Thor: Ragnarok. I'm going to be very controversial, I'm sorry. I know it's one of the favourites of many people I know, but it's my least favourite of the Thor movies. I know. I hang my head in shame. 

I'm a big fan of Taika Waititi. Love his films, the series, everything. And Ragnarok has some of the most epic and stunning imagery you could ever imagine in a Thor movie. I mean, just look at the Valkyrie scene with the slow motion, and the pegasus, pegasuses, pegasi... wow. And Cate Blanchett... wow again. Seriously good. Great soundtrack, some amazing scenes, and yet, it's still my least favourite Thor movie. 

Why? Because this is MAJOR stuff. The Warriors Three fall. Odin dies. Asgard is destroyed. This is freakin' huge. And it's a comedy. Sure, most of the Marvel movies have humour, but this is too funny for the major events that happen in it. There's no sense of loss when the Warriors Three are dispatched so easily.

So, yeah. I still love it, and I love Taika's movies, but it is too glib with some of the drama sometimes, and makes me a little concerned that Love And Thunder will be the same. "Jane Foster's back, she has cancer, ha ha, funny line, it's okay, she's Thor now! Funny line again!" 


Bringing the rewatch right up to date (as in, only just finished it today), we have Marvel's Inhumans. Critically panned, and cancelled after eight episodes, this ties in with the events of Agents of SHIELD with the Terrigen crystals, and focuses on the Inhuman royals on the moon in the hidden city of Attilan. 

There are some great elements, and Iwan Rheon is perfectly cast as Maximus, the Loki of the Inhuman universe. So scheming. There are some cool plot-lines, and it could have been great - so what happened?

I'm going to go with the lead characters. I'm sorry. Serinda Swan is Medusa, and what do they do with her? Cut her hair off (so she's not really able to do her cool Medusa stuff) and then she spends a load of time on Earth striding around being all "I'm royal and you are a peasant" which doesn't really make her likeable.

The other big problem is Black Bolt. Anson Mount a very attractive man, and you just have to watch Star Trek: Discovery (Season 2) and you'll know he has a real charm and charisma. He's brilliant in that, and I seriously can't wait for Strange New Worlds. So very good. So, you take an attractive and charismatic lead, and you give him the role of a character who can't speak. His Inhuman power means vocal sounds destroy and kill. Great actor - can't talk for the whole thing. So frustrating. I know that's what Black Bolt is like, but still. I guess they were thinking they needed a great bit of acting because he can't speak. 

A real shame. It had potential, but maybe it was just a bit too out-there for its time. I mean, a guy with hooves (it's pronounced HOOves, not huvs), and a giant teleporting dog? Of course, with series like The Umbrella Academy and Doom Patrol showing that 'out there' is perfectly acceptable on TV now, maybe The Inhumans was just at the wrong time?

Anyway, with those eight episodes over with, we're back onto the Netflix series, and onto The Punisher (Season One)... but that's for next time (as we've just started the rewatch). 

If you want to catch up and keep up with the rewatch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we've been following the order that DigitalSpy produced a little while ago. If you want to join in, here's the list we've worked through so far...

1 - Captain America: The First Avenger

2 - Agent Carter (Season One)

3 - Agent Carter (Season Two)

4 - Agent Carter (Marvel One-Shot - on Iron Man 3 bluray)

5 - Captain Marvel

6 - Iron Man

7 - Iron Man 2

8 - The Incredible Hulk (on Netflix)

9 - The Consultant (Marvel One-Shot - on the Thor bluray)

10 - A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to Thor's Hammer (Marvel One-Shot - on the Captain America: The First Avenger bluray)

11 - Thor: The Mighty Avenger

12 - Avengers Assemble (the first Avengers movie)

13 - Item 47 (Marvel One-Shot - on the Avengers bluray)

14 - Iron Man 3

15 - All Hail The King (Marvel One-Shot on the Thor: The Dark World bluray)

16 - Agents of SHIELD (Season One, Episodes 1-7)

17 - Thor: The Dark World

18 - Agents of SHIELD (Season One, Episodes 8-16)

19 - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

20 - Agents of SHIELD (Season One, Episodes 17-22)

21 - Guardians of the Galaxy

22 - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

23 - Daredevil (Season One)

24 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Two, Episodes 1-10)

25 - Jessica Jones (Season One)

26 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Two, Episodes 11-19)

27 - Avengers: Age of Ultron

28 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Two, Episodes 20-22)

29 - Daredevil (Season Two, Episodes 1-4)

30 - Luke Cage (Season One, Episodes 1-4)

31 - Daredevil (Season Two, Episodes 5-11)

32 - Luke Cage (Season One, Episodes 5-8)

33 - Daredevil (Season Two, Episodes 12-13)

34 - Luke Cage (Season One, Episodes 9-13)

35 - Ant-Man

36 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Three, Episodes 1-10)

37 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Three, Episodes 11-19)

38 - Iron Fist (Season One)

39 - Captain America: Civil War

40 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Three, Episodes 20-22)

41 - The Defenders

42 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Four, Episodes 1-6)

43 - Doctor Strange

44 - Black Panther

45 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Four, Episodes 7-8)

46 - Agents of SHIELD: Slingshot (Episodes 1-6)

47 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Four, Episodes 9-22)

48 - Spider-man: Homecoming

49 - Thor: Ragnarok

50 - Inhumans (Season One)

Next up is:

51 - The Punisher (Season One) <----- We Are Here!!!

52 - Runaways (Season One)

53 - Agents of SHIELD (Season 5, Episodes 1-10)

54 - Jessica Jones (Season Two)

55 - Agents of SHIELD (Season 5, Episodes 11-18)

56 - Cloak and Dagger (Season One)

57 - Cloak and Dagger (Season Two)


Saturday, April 10, 2021

Order in the (Marvel) Universe (Part IV)

While furloughed from my previous job (I still can't get over the idea that I've quit) I was distracting myself by rewatching the whole the of Marvel Cinematic Universe in chronological order of events, including the TV Series. 

Which brings me to Part IV. It's been nearly a month, and we've still been working our way through it. Last blog post about this we'd just finished Season 2 of Agents of SHIELD, and were heading back into Hell's Kitchen again...

Daredevil Season 2 promotional image - 
Matt Murdock gets a bit chained up by the Punisher

Next up on the rewatch is Daredevil Season Two. I remember the first time I watched this I had a couple of problems with it - one was Elektra's accent, and the other was the casting of Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle (aka, The Punisher). Elektra was one of my favourites as a teen, and one of the comics that got me back into reading comics after a break thanks to Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz's 'Elektra: Assassin'. I'd read that so many time, so in my head I knew Elektra's background as being Greek, so her rather upper-class British accent sounded a bit weird at the time. However, on the rewatch, it didn't bother me for some reason. Maybe because I knew it was coming.

Jon Bernthal's casting as Frank Castle only really bothered me the first time around because the only thing I'd really seen him in was The Walking Dead, and I really didn't like Shane in that series. Time has passed, and I stopped watching Walking Dead a long time ago (#JusticeForGlenn - my favourite TWD character). Now time as passed and Shane is a distant memory, I could really appreciate Bernthal's portrayal of Frank Castle. He's deeply troubled, mentally scarred, and feels he cannot be redeemed. Vengeance is all he can see. Honestly brilliant.

And Season Two really ups 'The Hand' and their influence on things - and the sequence where they are escaping in Stick's car, and The Hand are firing arrows into it from the rooftops, is so Frank Miller it's genius. Needless to say, loved it. 

But, of course, we weren't JUST watching Daredevil Season Two. The timeline meant we were watching both Daredevil Season Two AND Luke Cage Season One

They needed to be watched in a special order - 

29 - Daredevil (Season Two, Episodes 1-4)

30 - Luke Cage (Season One, Episodes 1-4)

31 - Daredevil (Season Two, Episodes 5-11)

32 - Luke Cage (Season One, Episodes 5-8)

33 - Daredevil (Season Two, Episodes 12-13)

34 - Luke Cage (Season One, Episodes 9-13)

Anyway, Luke Cage Season One was great again. Brilliant cast, Simone Missick is fantastic as Misty Knight, and another one of my favourite actors - Mahershala Ali - who (let's face it) is flipping brilliant in anything he's in, just look at the last season of True Detective, as Cornell Stokes.

Promo image for Season One of Luke Cage

Another beautifully directed series, with gorgeous lighting that gives everything an iconic yellow tint (much like Daredevil has a red hue, and Jessica Jones is blue). And that soundtrack. Absolutely stunning. The only thing I thought that let Season One down was the departure of Cornell (don't call him Cottonmouth) Stokes, and bringing in Diamondback as the big-bad of the season. He was good, but he didn't ooze the charisma of Ali. I guess I should also mention multiple award winning Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard, who you just hate from the outset. You know she's up to evil things, and she portrays that power-hungry frenzy with a passion. 

The timeline didn't really have too much of an impact until you get to episode 11 of Daredevil, and Clare Temple survives an attack by The Hand at the hospital, and for her safety she leaves Hell's Kitchen. The next thing you watch is Episode 5 of Luke Cage and there's Clare Temple, arriving in Harlem. Really nice to watch it like this.

After the double-bill of Daredevil and Luke Cage, it's back to the movies and back onto Disney+ for Ant-Man

Promotional image for Marvel Studio's Ant-Man

Ant-Man is one that I was really excited for when it was announced, as initially it was going to be directed by one of my favourite movie directors - Edgar Wright. Unfortunately, he and Marvel parted ways, but his fingerprints are all over this heist tale. I managed to go to the press screening for this when it was released, and to the press conference with director Peyton Reed, and stars Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, and Michael Peña. 

Have to say, I do love this movie. It's a brilliantly heartwarming tale of families, wrapped up in a crazy action movie, with a heck of a lot of comedy. 

Then it was back to Agents of SHIELD to start Season Three. 

Promo image of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD Season Three

They really turned up the emotions in Season Three didn't they? Simmons is trapped on an alien planet, falls for a stranded 'sacrificial' Will Daniels, and is rescued in time to see the departure of Bobby and Hunter (such a sad episode, not a dry eye in the house - why did they cancel their spin-off series "Marvel's Most Wanted"?????? Arrrrg!!!). There's a mission to rescue Will from the alien planet, they discover HYDRA's origins, and have to face a new threat in the form of Hive. Really doesn't let up that season. It's brilliant as always, but...

You have to stop at episode 19.

Small pause in the action, just as things are getting really hectic in Agents of SHIELD while we take some time out to watch Iron Fist Season One.

Promotional image for Season One of Netflix's Iron Fist

I know Iron Fist gets a lot of hate, and I don't know why. Sure, Danny Rand is a bit of a naive plum, wandering around New York without shoes, expecting to just walk straight into his old life and become the billionaire he's born to be, and Finn Jones does a great job of this innocence. But the series is really made by the co-stars. Jessica Henwick is brilliant as Colleen Wing, and don't get me started on the Meachums. Ward and Harold Meachum (Tom Pelphrey and David Wenham) are just the perfect level of psychotic and messed up. 

There were a few criticisms that the martial arts in it seemed slow and badly choreographed, but I (personally) saw it as being fine - it kinda felt like Danny knew all the moves so much and had them ingrained into his head to the state that he could do them with little of the fury you'd expect from a fight. 

After Iron Fist Season One, (no, it's not back to SHIELD) it's onto the movies again for Captain America: Civil War. 

Promotional poster for Captain America: Civil War

This is my wife's least favourite Marvel movie, and I can understand why. The characters are all brilliant again, and it introduces two major players in the MCU - Black Panther and Spider-man. And the background plot of Zemo trying to destroy the Avengers from within, by making them turn on each other, revealing who killed Tony Stark's parents, is a great plot.

I know the movies are based on comics to a certain extent, and that all the characters are comic characters, but there's always that comic trope of heroes fighting each other. Who would win? (And before you ask, Wanda could take Superman) You know what? I don't care who would win. They are heroes. They fight villains who would cause the world harm. I love Tony Stark, though I love Steve Rogers more. I don't want to see them beat seven-hells out of each other. I want them joining together and fighting a bigger threat. The 'big fight' at an airport has its plus-sides (this is a great portrayal of Spider-man, and his witty remarks in a fight), but when you see Hawkeye and Black Widow fighting and you know they're pulling their punches you have that moment when you think - why are they actually fighting, and can they stop and get along now please?

Not so much a Captain America movie, but more Avengers 2.5, it's just good that they get over their differences in time for Thanos... but that's a way off yet...

But, it does introduce something major into the MCU timeline, something that will surface again very soon as we return to Agents of SHIELD Season Three for episodes 20-22. The Sokovia Accords. You can see why you watch Civil War between episodes 19 and 20, as episode 20: 'Emancipation' seems to say 'Sokovia Accords' a billion times in its first twenty minutes as the need to register and keep an eye on powered individuals is felt all over the MCU.

Season Three closes with the end of Hive, the end of Grant Ward, and the end of another Inhuman (spoilers for those who haven't seen it yet). It's emotional, but before you can rest there's the post credits sequence at the end of the last episode and we jump forward six months to realise Coulson's not the Director of SHIELD, Daisy has gone rogue, and it's all going to heck. 

Before moving onto Season Four (one of my favourites in Agents of SHIELD) we need to finish the big culmination of those Netflix series - everything in the four individual series have been building up to The Defenders

Marvels' Defenders promotional image

After some great first seasons in their own respective series, The Defenders resolves (most) of The Hand storyline mostly from Daredevil and Iron Fist, when we discover what they've been doing with that hole under the building in Manhattan, unlocking the key to immortality. Admittedly, it really starts very slow, but by episode three of the eight episode limited series they've all met in The Hand's offices (or rather a shiny room where Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver), one of the five fingers of The Hand, is meeting with her minions), and the cinematic punching begins. 

Sure, there are the Civil War problems where some of the characters just don't seem to get along, and there's a marked moment in one of the later episodes where they remember all the excellent supporting characters and Colleen, Clare, Karen, Misty, Foggy, and Trish, have a quick catch-up and get them involved again. It all ends with lots of punchy action again, and a lot of me shouting 'why haven't you powered up the fist?' repeatedly. 

And that brings us up to date (just about). Yesterday we started Season Four of Agents of SHIELD (as I mentioned, one of my favourite series of SHIELD - mostly as it did a brilliant job of Ghost Rider, had a great Life Model Decoy storyline, and then became "Agents of HYDRA" for a bit). 

For those of you who want to keep up, I'm using the order that DigitalSpy produced a little while ago. If you want to join in, here's the list we've worked through so far...

1 - Captain America: The First Avenger

2 - Agent Carter (Season One)

3 - Agent Carter (Season Two)

4 - Agent Carter (Marvel One-Shot - on Iron Man 3 bluray)

5 - Captain Marvel

6 - Iron Man

7 - Iron Man 2

8 - The Incredible Hulk (on Netflix)

9 - The Consultant (Marvel One-Shot - on the Thor bluray)

10 - A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to Thor's Hammer (Marvel One-Shot - on the Captain America: The First Avenger bluray)

11 - Thor: The Mighty Avenger

12 - Avengers Assemble (the first Avengers movie)

13 - Item 47 (Marvel One-Shot - on the Avengers bluray)

14 - Iron Man 3

15 - All Hail The King (Marvel One-Shot on the Thor: The Dark World bluray)

16 - Agents of SHIELD (Season One, Episodes 1-7)

17 - Thor: The Dark World

18 - Agents of SHIELD (Season One, Episodes 8-16)

19 - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

20 - Agents of SHIELD (Season One, Episodes 17-22)

21 - Guardians of the Galaxy

22 - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

23 - Daredevil (Season One)

24 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Two, Episodes 1-10)

25 - Jessica Jones (Season One)

26 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Two, Episodes 11-19)

27 - Avengers: Age of Ultron

28 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Two, Episodes 20-22)

29 - Daredevil (Season Two, Episodes 1-4)

30 - Luke Cage (Season One, Episodes 1-4)

31 - Daredevil (Season Two, Episodes 5-11)

32 - Luke Cage (Season One, Episodes 5-8)

33 - Daredevil (Season Two, Episodes 12-13)

34 - Luke Cage (Season One, Episodes 9-13)

35 - Ant-Man

36 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Three, Episodes 1-10)

37 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Three, Episodes 11-19)

38 - Iron Fist (Season One)

39 - Captain America: Civil War

40 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Three, Episodes 20-22)

41 - The Defenders

Next up on the list is:

42 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Four, Episodes 1-6) <-- We are here!!!

43 - Doctor Strange

44 - Black Panther

45 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Four, Episodes 7-8)

46 - Agents of SHIELD: Slingshot (Episodes 1-6)

47 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Four, Episodes 9-22)

Saturday, April 3, 2021

My God! What Have I Done?

 


This is a bit of a strange post, and not my normal sort of thing on this blog, but there's been a little news.

Today is officially my last day at my dayjob. As assistant manager of The Television and Movie Store. TVM opened in 2007, and while I wasn't there from the opening day (I had a week of notice to work at my previous job) I was there almost from the start. Blimey... Thirteen years (plus). 

It's one of those ultimate nerdy jobs. I got the position by answering an advert posted on the old Outpost Gallifrey message boards, and I sorta knew the boss from ordering from his company in my previous job at Ottakars. The shop itself is a former BBC Shop (remember when those were all over the country) and when we opened we really had very little stock, and about 80% of that was Doctor Who

Thirteen years later, and it has grown into an awesome geek-fest full of merchandise for everything from Marvel to Star Wars, with ranges from badges and pens up to Hot Toys. 



In the formative years of the shop we hosted signings with many actors from Doctor Who, including the legendary Tom Baker (a couple of times), Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Nicola Bryant, Nicholas Courtney, Deborah Watling, Peter Purves, Terry Molloy, and so many more. In fact, in a lot of cases when you look these fantastic actors up on Wikipedia, you'll find their photo has been taken at our store signing. We've had some of the cast of Torchwood, and even Red Dwarf, in store, signing for enthusiastic fans. This does mean that a lot of my collection of classic Doctor Who DVDs have been signed. Heck, I even managed to get Tom Baker (who was lovely at each signing, and an absolute star when it comes to talking to the fans) to sign my old FASA Doctor Who roleplaying game



Thirteen years. Of course, it wasn't the cool stock or the cool signings that made working there a pleasure. Luckily I had the most awesome staff with me at the shop. Over the years I've made some of the best friends I could ever hope to have there, and that's the part that is making this decision a tough one. I'm really going to miss them. On the plus-side, it's not like I'm going anywhere, and it's a shop! So at least I can go visit when I'm feeling up to leaving the house.

Why now? Why did I quit after all those years? Well, an opportunity arose (which will be revealed later) that I simply couldn't pass up. It's the culmination of a dream 35+ years in the making. From those first typed manuscripts hammered out on an old electric typewriter, photocopied and posted out, that dream has always been there. 

And now the chance to do it as a full-time job (from the safety of my own home) has come into view and I just had to go for it. Of course, now I'm filled with the doubt, the panic, being convinced that I'm not good enough, can't do it, and will be fired after my trial period only to go grovelling back to the shop with my head hanging low in defeat. 

It's also a particularly big relief for me as it means I don't have the massive stress of going back into the public at the shop during what is hopefully the end and recovery period of the pandemic. Seriously, the stress of being so close to people who just didn't care about the pandemic, coming into the store unmasked, putting my careful and concerned staff (and myself) at risk, was just getting to me. 

Anyway, Ostara is a time for new beginnings, of the light defeating the darkness. I hope this Easter is a new, and brighter, beginning for me.

Until next post, stay safe everyone. Take care of yourselves and each other.


Sunday, March 14, 2021

Order in the (Marvel) Universe (Part III)

 Over the last month or so, we've been distracting ourselves from the horrors of the outside world by rewatching all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in chronological order of events, including the various TV series. 

Still from Netflix series "Daredevil" featuring Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) and
Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio)

We finished the first season of Daredevil, which was freakin' great again. The whole series is just gorgeously filmed, with some perfect casting. Big shout out to Vincent D'Onofrio for his portrayal of Kingpin Wilson Fisk. I grew up reading Spider-man and always found the Kingpin a bit of a boring villain - after all, he's just a crime lord, albeit a huge one both in power and physically. But D'Onofrio brings a real depth and real terror to the character. He's intriguing, and when he walks into a scene you actually feel concern for the characters around him (especially Matt Murdock). He is a manipulative rage monster with actual depth and drive. Absolutely stunning performance from him. 

You hear me Marvel? If Charlie Cox is appearing in the next Spider-man movie as Matt Murdock, how about bringing back Kingpin for a future Spidey movie - and keep D'Onofrio? He's freakin' brilliant.

After Daredevil, it was back to Agents of SHIELD. Season Two, we're starting the build up to the revelations of the Inhumans on Earth, and the fallout of the big HYDRA reveal last season and in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Absolutely loving it again this time around, as it quickly brings in some of the new characters like Bobbi Morse, Hunter, Mack, and Trip. (Poor Trip)

Promotional image from Marvel's Agents of SHIELD season 2,
featuring Coulson, Skye, May, and Trip

It's just really frustrating that SHIELD just can't get its act together. The moment HYDRA is revealed, we discover that SHIELD became two organisations both claiming to be the 'real SHIELD' and why can't they all just get along and be one? Luckily, Coulson is the constant - love Coulson - and while he was troubled by visions of Kree symbols, he's still the heart of SHIELD and a voice of reason.

Following the DigitalSpy feature's list of how to watch things chronologically, we watched the first ten episodes of Agents of SHIELD, then paused to watch the first season of Netflix's Jessica Jones. The second of Netflix's "Defenders" series. So we stopped, just as Skye is cocooned to activate her Inhuman origins. Talk about a cliffhanger...

Oh boy, where to start with Jessica Jones? More brilliant casting all around, especially Krysten Ritter. We're also introduced to Luke Cage, with another perfect bit of casting using Mike Colter. However, the whole series has a horrible sense of tension in it, thanks to the most disturbing of villains in the MCU. Worse than Thanos? Worse than Ultron? I think so... Killgrave is just the nastiest piece of work in there. 

Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) and Killgrave (David Tennant)

Made even worse, I think, by being played by David Tennant. I love David Tennant, probably one of the most popular Doctors in Doctor Who. But Killgrave is absolutely horrible. Being able to control people to do absolutely anything. So... effing... creepy. 

After Jessica Jones Season One it was back to Agents of SHIELD and some brilliant collaboration between the series and the movies. Watching season two of SHIELD up to episode nineteen it perfectly builds up to HYDRA's experiments and Strucker in Sokovia. While SHIELD is getting information about HYDRA's experiments on 'the twins', they get the location of Loki's sceptre. Episode 19 'The Dirty Half-Dozen' ends with this location being given to Maria Hill, and talking of a secret project "Theta Protocol"... which leads perfectly into Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The first big Age of Ultron assembled shot. Lovely slow mo as they attack Strucker's Castle

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a strange one. The characters are great, the acting is good, but I'm not a huge fan of the villain (Ultron), and some of the dialogue is problematic (Stark, how could you? Very out of character). And Joss Whedon pulled his 'guy lands on a woman in an embarrassing way' "gag" just as he did in his cut of Justice League

While the villain's a bit naff in my opinion, the fight sequence as the Avengers work together to defend the 'key' in Sokovia so that Ultron cannot flick the switch, is glorious. A seamless blend from one character to another, showing off their strengths, acting as a team. Fabulous. 

And it was great seeing Wanda's first appearance after watching WandaVision on its launch days. Just shows off how beautifully worked out and tied together the MCU seems to be.

After that, it's back to Agents of SHIELD for the final three episodes of season two. Episode 20 - 'Scars' perfectly continues the storyline from Age of Ultron, explaining Coulson's 'Theta Protocol' was actually Nick Fury's plan to keep a SHIELD Helicarrier hidden in case of emergencies - the very helicarrier that appears at the end of Age of Ultron to help rescue the civilians of Sokovia as their city is lifted into the air. 

Just finishing up the series today, with a great bit of Kyle MacLachlan getting all over-the-top as Skye's father. Been a big fan of Kyle MacLachlan since Dune, Blue Velvet, and Twin Peaks, so it's always great when he appears in things. 

With the weird solid/liquid monolith, it just reminds me how much I think Agents of SHIELD would be a great RPG. Like The X-Files in a world with aliens, superheroes, robots, and sorcerers. Sounds great to me...

For those of you who want to keep up, I'm using the order that DigitalSpy produced a little while ago. If you want to join in, here's the list we've worked through so far...

1 - Captain America: The First Avenger

2 - Agent Carter (Season One)

3 - Agent Carter (Season Two)

4 - Agent Carter (Marvel One-Shot - on Iron Man 3 bluray)

5 - Captain Marvel

6 - Iron Man

7 - Iron Man 2

8 - The Incredible Hulk (on Netflix)

9 - The Consultant (Marvel One-Shot - on the Thor bluray)

10 - A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to Thor's Hammer (Marvel One-Shot - on the Captain America: The First Avenger bluray)

11 - Thor: The Mighty Avenger

12 - Avengers Assemble (the first Avengers movie)

13 - Item 47 (Marvel One-Shot - on the Avengers bluray)

14 - Iron Man 3

15 - All Hail The King (Marvel One-Shot on the Thor: The Dark World bluray)

16 - Agents of SHIELD (Season One, Episodes 1-7)

17 - Thor: The Dark World

18 - Agents of SHIELD (Season One, Episodes 8-16)

19 - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

20 - Agents of SHIELD (Season One, Episodes 17-22)

21 - Guardians of the Galaxy

22 - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

23 - Daredevil (Season One)

24 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Two, Episodes 1-10)

25 - Jessica Jones (Season One)

26 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Two, Episodes 11-19)

27 - Avengers: Age of Ultron

28 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Two, Episodes 20-22)

Next on the list is...

29 - Daredevil (Season Two, Episodes 1-4)

30 - Luke Cage (Season One, Episodes 1-4)

31 - Daredevil (Season Two, Episodes 5-11)

32 - Luke Cage (Season One, Episodes 5-8)

33 - Daredevil (Season Two, Episodes 12-13)

34 - Luke Cage (Season One, Episodes 9-13)

35 - Ant-Man

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Order in the (Marvel) Universe (part II)

 Last post I mentioned that I was distracting myself from the horrors of the real world outside by marathoning all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in chronological order of events, including the TV series. 

Phase One was pretty easy to get through, working through from Captain America: The First Avenger, through Agent Carter, and onto the individual characters' origin stories (including Captain Marvel) building up to the first big Avengers movie.

Agents of SHIELD Season One Promo Image

Then it was onto Agents of SHIELD. Oh lordy had I forgotten how cool that series is. I mean, I watched it all and loved the later series - ranting at people for not watching it from when it started - but rewatching Season One, especially punctuating it with Thor: The Dark World (in between episodes 7 & 8) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (my favourite Marvel movie. It fits between episodes 16 & 17 if you're keeping track), it really hits home how great Agents of SHIELD is. Awesome stuff. Absolutely loved it.

Had that realisation, rewatching it, that the late, great Bill Paxton's character in SHIELD is Garrett from one of my favourite comic series - Elektra: Assassin. Not sure if I twigged that reference first time around. Only shame is they didn't give him the Hawaiian shirts and big shoulder pads, but Paxton is so cool in it. 

After Season One of Agents of SHIELD, it was onto a double-bill of Guardians of the Galaxy. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Promo Image

I have a distinct memory of going to the press conference and the early screening of the first Guardians movie. I came out of the screening in tears as it was so darn good - that sequence at the beginning with Quill's mother that echoes in the final conflict against Ronan the Accuser does me in every time. It was everything I hoped the Guardians movie could be and more. 

Photo from the Guardians of the Galaxy press conference, before the cast appeared (July 2014)

And the press conference was great too (though it was a shame Vin Diesel was a no-show - Debs was so looking forward to being in the same room as Vin). 

The first one was always going to be a tough one to match when it came to sequels. 

We finished the Guardians double-bill today, and now we're back, firmly footed on Earth, and back in New York for the first season of Daredevil on Netflix. I honestly can't remember if I've watched this twice already, but I do remember loving the Netflix series - especially Daredevil


For those of you who want to keep up, I'm using the order that DigitalSpy produced a little while ago. If you want to join in, here's the list we've worked through so far...

1 - Captain America: The First Avenger

2 - Agent Carter (Season One)

3 - Agent Carter (Season Two)

4 - Agent Carter (Marvel One-Shot - on Iron Man 3 bluray)

5 - Captain Marvel

6 - Iron Man

7 - Iron Man 2

8 - The Incredible Hulk (on Netflix)

9 - The Consultant (Marvel One-Shot - on the Thor bluray)

10 - A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to Thor's Hammer (Marvel One-Shot - on the Captain America: The First Avenger bluray)

11 - Thor: The Mighty Avenger

12 - Avengers Assemble (the first Avengers movie)

13 - Item 47 (Marvel One-Shot - on the Avengers bluray)

14 - Iron Man 3

15 - All Hail The King (Marvel One-Shot on the Thor: The Dark World bluray)

16 - Agents of SHIELD (Season One, Episodes 1-7)

17 - Thor: The Dark World

18 - Agents of SHIELD (Season One, Episodes 8-16)

19 - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

20 - Agents of SHIELD (Season One, Episodes 17-22)

21 - Guardians of the Galaxy

22 - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

23 - Daredevil (Season One)

--

coming next...

24 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Two, Episodes 1-10)

25 - Jessica Jones (Season One)

26 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Two, Episodes 11-19)

27 - Avengers: Age of Ultron


Should keep me out of trouble for a bit...

Stay safe everyone. 


Sunday, February 21, 2021

Order in the Universe

Lockdown has been a bit of a strain on everyone, especially mentally. While I've been grateful not to be out in the public, being exposed to the threat of the virus, it has been hard to concentrate on things. Luckily, I've had plenty of writing to keep my occupied, with both WILD and something else (that I'm not sure if I can talk about yet).

But when I haven't been writing, I've wanted as big a distraction from the real world as possible. Thinking about the virus, what it has done to everyone, all the people we've lost, those who deny its dangers. Heck, I ended up with counselling last year from having to go out among people for work.

So, to distract myself from the real world, I've been watching a lot of movies and TV. When I mean, a lot, I mean A LOT...

When Disney+ started, we had this ridiculous idea of rewatching all of Star Wars in chronological order of the events. Okay, so we didn't re-jig the episodes of The Clone Wars into event order, but we watched everything...

Starting with Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, The Clone Wars (all seven seasons), Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Rebels (all four seasons), Rogue One, Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, The Mandalorian, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Resistance (season 1), Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, Resistance (season 2) and finally, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.

Was great to watch everything in this order. Took a long time, we didn't marathon it or anything, and after many months, we finished the Star Wars rewatch about a week ago. The highlights were definitely rewatching The Clone Wars and Rebels. Rebels is such a good series. Seriously, why haven't you watched it yet?

Anyway, that was Star Wars done... so what do I watch to distract myself next?

The X-Files is going onto Disney+ in a few days, despite me already having it on VHS and DVD (but not Bluray, much to my disgust... and can you get it on Bluray now without a lottery win? No. Why have they discontinued it? - I know, probably to make you get Disney+). 

After watching the weekly episode of WandaVision there seemed to be one really obvious rewatch to do... the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe... in chronological order. 

Now, I'm not going to be pedantic - I know some of the episodes of Agents of SHIELD involve time travel, but I'm going to stick with the time the team should have been in if they weren't knocked out of time, or in an alternate dimension, alternate future, etc... So we're sticking to the order that DigitalSpy recommended.

So, we started with Captain America: The First Avenger, (my second favourite movie in the MCU... you'll have to wait if you want to know my favourite)... followed by the fantastic Agent Carter (seasons 1 & 2). Why did that ever get cancelled? Great series, and great to watch it again.

Okay, so you know I said I wasn't being pedantic? Well, maybe a little. Agent Carter is followed by the strange 'alternate version' with Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter (found on the Iron Man 3 Bluray). Peggy's back in New York and being treated like crap, before Howard Stark gets her to start up SHIELD. The beginning is like a prequel to the TV series, but it definitely ends afterwards with Carter's big new assignment. 

There's a big time-jump in the timeline from the 1940's to the 1990's, as the 'one-shot' is followed by Captain Marvel (may have to look into what happened to the Tesseract between Howard Stark finding it at the bottom of the ocean to Lawson using it to power the lightspeed engine), Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk (not on Disney+ to due rights issues, but it's on Netflix if you want to keep up and don't own the disc), and then onto the 'one-shots' again...

Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant is next (on the Thor bluray), explaining the appearance of Tony Stark at the end of The Incredible Hulk in a great bit of retconning. Along with Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer (on the Captain America bluray). You could so tell they were testing the water for Agent Coulson to get his own spin-off series. This leads in nicely to Thor (The Mighty Avenger), and the big team up movie The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble as it was called over here). A movie I have a bit of a history with as it was my first big press conference (yes, I was in the same room as 90% of the Avengers) but it occurred just as my mother was hospitalised. Anyway, that's another story...

It's been really cool watching these all again, despite us having watched them dozens and dozens of times before. Heck, I can probably recite huge chunks of Captain America and Thor off by heart. 

Topping off MCU Phase 1, we squeezed in Marvel One-Shot: Item 47 (which again, was so setting up a SHIELD spin-off, which can be found on the Avengers bluray) before making a start on Phase 2 this morning. 

We started Phase 2 with Iron Man 3, and the Marvel One-Shot: All Hail The King (which I do think is Ben Kingsley's finest performance, found on the Thor: The Dark World bluray). 


And now we're onto a rewatch of season 1 of Agents of SHIELD. Must admit, I love Agents of SHIELD, though I know a lot of people gave up on season one for it being a bit slow. Did they ever miss out! The whole Agents of HYDRA series and the time travel seasons? Awesome. Love it. Of course, we're starting slow, and stopping at the right time to insert the movies and more from Phase 2. So we're going to keep watching until the end of Episode 7, then onto Thor: The Dark World. We're on Episode 3 at the moment (with Ian Hart appearing, looking identical to a very good friend of mine). 

I'll let you know how we get on. It's been a great distraction from the impending doom of returning to the outside world. 

Stay safe everyone, 

Monday, January 18, 2021

Who Do You Think You Are?

I'm not sleeping very well. I don't know if it's the lack of physical activity in this (third) lockdown, or if my head's too busy worrying about everything, but I spend a lot of time just staring at the ceiling and thinking. Wondering. Wondering why I'm not able to sleep. Wondering if Star Fleet uniforms in Star Trek: Discovery are so comfortable that you don't need socks - let's face it, Burnham wasn't wearing socks when her boots were ripped off by that baddie in the Jefferies Tube.

Anyway, at three in the morning a few weeks ago I had this idea. I wanted to write my autobiography. 

Crazy, huh? First of all, I'm not a great fan of autobiographies. I know a lot of people do get a kick out of them, but they really don't float my boat at all. I've read a few - one of the few I really did enjoy was Wil Wheaton's 'Just a Geek'. There was something about its honesty and the way it was written that meant I actually enjoyed it. 

But secondly, I don't think I'm actually very interesting. I had this conversation in my head at 3AM where I thought...


Why would anyone want to read an autobiography of you?

Well they wouldn't. But, then there are others out there who have done the same and I didn't know who they were either. Look at that Mark Barrowcliffe chap who did the one about growing up while playing Dungeons & Dragons? 


Yeah, but you didn't enjoy that one did you? 

It's no fault of the author, I'm just not a big fan of autobiographies! I know lots of people who loved that book.

But he was basically saying the same thing. About growing up in the 70s and 80s and playing far too much D&D. What could you bring to the table that's different?

That's the thing isn't it? What would make my boring autobiography different?

I had this idea many years ago about doing some of my Roll Your Own Life entries as some form of webseries - this was back when I used to think webseries were cool and before everything went horribly wrong. Of course, not only did the webseries thing come to a grinding halt, I had that realisation that (in the long run) no one would want to stare at my big bald face for any length of time.

How to make it different? And not boring?

One way of avoiding looking at my boring face is doing a podcast. But then there's editing, recording it without any background noise, adding music and stuff like that. It's doable, but is it the best way forward?

The other option is going for the comic strip. Heck, I used to draw comics. When I thought the RPG writing thing wasn't happening I wrote and published comics back during the UK Indie Comics boom of the late 90s. Admittedly, it has been a long time since I've drawn comics. I've done some drawing recently for illustrations for WILD, but I'm convinced I can't draw. 

But, I may give it a go anyway. 

So here's the pitch. My life, retold in comic strip form, in small episodes from different eras, badly remembered and slightly fictionalised, from the perspective of a long time tabletop gamer who really should get a life. It'll get me away from looking at computers in the evening (when I've spent most of the day looking at them) and it may be a laugh. It may also be rubbish. 

Now... where to start...???