(Slight Spoilers Ahead)

AVENGERS!!!!! AGE OF ULTRON!!!1! SQUEEE!!!!

Okay, I'm done. Actually, no I'm not, it was awesome!
Avengers Assembled
Pictured Above: Awesomeness.
Do I really need to review this movie for you? From what I've heard, everyone seems to agree that it was great. Now, I wouldn't say it's better than the first, but in my opinion, it's pretty much equal to the first. Even though it does have a different feel from its predecessor.

How, you ask? Well, hold on to your butts, folks, here comes one of my weird analogies. The first Avengers film feels like going to an amusement park for the first time. Your senses are overwhelmed, there's delicious food, fun games and attractions, and of course a ton of different rides but you can only do so much in just 2 hours. It's still fun, and you loved the experience, but there's so much more you want to explore and experience. The second time you go to the park you have a plan of action, you're still entertained, but you have a set goal and purpose this time to get more out of time you'll spend there. That's Age of Ultron.

At this point, we're familiar with the members of the Avengers, how they work together, and how the overall story could pan out, but now with AOU, we have a new threat, new characters, and a sense of an overarching plan of action revolving around a certain piece of handwear.
infinity gauntlent
Hence the earlier fangirl 'squee'.
APU isn't a darker film necessarily, but it does want to get down to business and show you its plan. Nothing wrong with that, as someone who knows what the plans are for the next few installments, I'm pumped! And you all should be too! In fact, read the comics first so you can properly anticipate the amount of awe-inspiring goodness coming to theaters the rest of this decade! Seriously.
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So much goodness....
I'll admit that I've been in superhero frenzy lately (surprise, surprise) and have done my best to feed the hunger with all things Marvel and Avengers. While I can't afford to go to the theater and watch it for the 22nd time, I can placate myself with looking at forums online, reading other blogs like my own, and watching any and all behind-the-scenes coverage of Avengers or interviews with the cast and crew.

Ever since the first film I've slowly yet surely developed a huge amount of respect for Scarlett Johansson and Joss Whedon (Whom I already respected, so he's pretty much a god to me now) for their clever feminist agenda. If you've spent enough time on geek social media you may already be aware of the many times where ScarJo has reacted beautifully to sexist questions and responses regarding her character, Black Widow.

While the guys get the questions about their own geekiness, deep characterization and stunts, Scarlett has to answer questions about her outfits and her diet and exercise regimen. This is incredibly unfortunate because female superheroes can be, and are, just as intriguing, and powerful as their male counterparts, oftentimes more so. I'd love to hear Scarlett talk about Natasha Romanoff's past, what her part in the group is, or what drives her to turn away from what she was trained to do and save the world.

With all this being said, you may remember a piece I wrote around Valentines' Day where I attempted to create a 'Romantic Period Piece' story where the gender roles were reversed (CLICK HERE TO READ IT). I took all the conventions and typical stereotypes of both men and women in period romance and turned it on its head to give everyone an idea of just how entertaining, and innovative a story revolving a female lead who doesn't need to rely on males could be. One problem with this in a 'Period Piece' is that chauvinism was the norm back then. You can't really make a story like the one I wrote for Hollywood because it simply would NOT have happened!

However, this is a new age where us girls have the opportunity to be our own person, and enjoy the freedoms of the male gender (for the most part). So, I'm going to write another story where the female takes the lead. Seeing as nobody seems to want to make a proper Wonder Woman movie or a standalone film about Black Widow's past, I'm going to try and make do with what I know of the Superhero-verse and make up my own female superhero story. Hope you enjoy!

Rachel Moore is a soft-spoken nursing student who could fit perfectly into the category of 'nerd,' complete with thick-rimmed glasses. She wants to be a nurse because she wants to help people, and make a difference. But while in school, she's surprised to learn how cutthroat the world of healthcare has become as of late due to the rising demand of healthcare professionals, and literally thousands trying to get into the profession. Despite her knowledge, skill, and genuine heart for the work, she's often overlooked, and undermined by her peers. The only one that is actually nice to her is Scott Mallory. He's popular amongst the class, intelligent, kind, and absolutely gorgeous! But he's already got a bitch of a girlfriend, and there's no way Rachel could ever attract the attention of a guy like that.

One night the class is called into an actual emergency room to observe, and if absolutely needed, help the staff. Everything is calm until a bunch of patients are brought in from a mysterious accident. It's all hands on deck, and Rachel does what she can to help, but gets lost in the frenzy, and silently wonders if she made the right career choice. Is she really cut out to be a nurse? She can't even help herself! How can she expect to help other people?

That's when she notices an older looking gentleman with a blood all over his face and chest, waiting to be helped amongst the chaos. He was obviously brought in with the others, but he was standing upright and mumbling darkly to himself, so the nursing students either ignored him, or actively tried to stay away from him. Even though the man gives her a weird vibe, she goes to him ready to give him any kind of care she can provide. As she begins to work on him, he thanks her, then yanks her hand and places something into her palm. He tells her to keep it hidden, and safe “within herself” then he stops breathing.

She gets some of the actual doctors to see him but it's too late. He's gone. She feels the thing he put into her hand but only sees a strange rash in the shape of a diamond on her palm. Maybe she only imagined him giving her something...She doesn't tell anyone about their interaction.

That night she goes home and has some weird dreams. A deep voice saying something about her destiny, ancient warriors, and a dark diamond-shaped stone kept showing up. The next morning she wakes up feeling strangely energized despite the dreams making her toss and turn. She puts on her glasses out of habit, but realizes that she doesn't need them. In fact, she can see perfectly! When changing her clothes, she notices that she suddenly has abs and spends a good 5 minutes flexing her now incredibly toned arms. This is really strange. Actually, this should be impossible.

As she goes about her day, she realizes that she can see things a good mile away, perfectly hear a conversation happening on the opposite side of the noisy lunch hall, and grab a fly that was bugging her out of the air between two fingers. Unable to concentrate, she pretends to be sick, and goes home early to figure out what exactly is happening to her. When she hops into an elevator, she hears a familiar voice call for her to hold it and is elated to find out that it's Scott. She's so excited by Scott's appearance and smile that she fails to realize that she made finger indents on the elevator door where she grabbed it.

She tries to look up her 'symptoms' at home, but the search yields no medical results, and there isn't anything in her medical textbooks either. It isn't until she adds the strange diamond mark on her palm as a symptom that she gets the result she never expected. She finds lore and legends about a 'jet stone' being passed from one person to the next since before recorded history. This diamond-shaped stone would supposedly gives its owner super human abilities as well as beef up the strengths they already had. She goes back to the hospital where the man had died to try and find out who he was, but there are no records of him being there despite other nurses and doctors remembering him. At a dead end, she spends the next few days getting used to her new found powers and wondering if she'll be rid of them.

Then while Rachel sits on the city bus, a car comes out of nowhere, and causes the bus to crash and rollover. She opens her eyes, and realizes she is completely unscratched but notices that others were not so lucky. Without thinking, she pulls heavy debris off of other passengers, and carries two or three out of the vehicle at a time. She even lifts the bus off of a pinned passenger. She makes sure to check everyone of course, and finds that while many people have some pretty extensive injuries, whenever she touches them, they get slightly better. Bruises disappear, cuts and scrapes vanish, their bleeding slows down, and those with head damage become more lucid. She leaves the scene quickly, afraid that there will be too many questions from police.

She realizes that her newfound powers have given her the ability to do what she's wanted all along, to help others and make a difference! So she embraces it, and dons a black hoodie, jeans, and sneakers along with a cheap, black masquerade mask. At first, she thinks she might be out of her element as she wanders the streets, and back alleys of her city until she hears commotion in a parking lot. When she investigates, she sees Scott Mallory himself being threatened at gunpoint by two thugs who want his wallet and car. She goes into action, and while she is awkward at first, she's fast enough to dodge the shots they fire and strong enough to knock them unconscious with a bit of fighting.

Scott is beside himself and instantly enraptured by his rescuer. She asks him if he's alright (which he is) and turns to leave but he has to ask, “Who are you?” She isn't going to tell him, obviously, so instead she says, “I'm the one who's going to heal this city.” and disappears into the shadows. Thinking back on it she thinks that the line sounded kind of corny, but it'll do for now.
Yeah! Just get a taste! Go ahead, Hollywood, make your move!
 
 
Here we are in the middle of March, and I bet you didn't realize that we were also in the middle of Women's History month. If you did, then major kudos. If I'm being honest, I actually forgot. It only remembered when the topic was brought up by my dear friend, Margaret, during our monthly book club meeting. I was slightly embarrassed by this faux pas when she called me out on it because typically, I never forget things like that. I'm usually the one bringing up such facts. Maybe this turn of warm weather is messing with my internal circuitry.
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Come on, even Leslie Knope drops the ball sometimes...
After the meeting, I tried to forgive myself for this error by thinking about all my favorite female heroes from both real history and fictional history, that have blazed trails in their own times, and inspired me in my own. So, this week, I'd like to reflect on my history in the world of fandom and present to you, my top five women that are responsible for turning yours truly into Geeky Pheebs. 

5) Lisa Simpson

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Since "The Simpsons" and I have been on this earth for almost the same amount of time, I really don't remember a time without it in my realm of fandom. Like most Americans, everyone can relate to at least one of its colorful characters. For me, it was always Lisa. Lisa Simpson was always hungry for knowledge and knew all the icons of feminism. Her willingness to embrace the things she was passionate about no matter the labels by her brother Bart or other school children always inspired me to do the same long before fandom was fashionable.


4) Ursula Le Guin

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When I was in the third grade, I had to do a book report for class. While roaming the bookshelves, the kind librarian, Mrs. Wellington, noticed my proclivity for all things Lisa Frank and suggested I read a book called "Catwings" by her favorite author, Ursula Le Guin.  That's where my love for all things Fantasy began (my love for all things Sci-Fi began sometime before that, but that's a tale yet to come).   It's also when my own fandom for Ursula Le Guin began. I ended up acing the book report, and subsequently read the other books in the series (looking back now, they're much better when you're under 10).  I've gone on to read almost everything Ursula has ever published and admire her not only for being a trailblazer for other female authors in the Fantasy/Sci-Fi genres, but for not imitating the voices of male authors before her. Instead, she crafted her own unique style that inspires many authors today, both male and female. As a special bonus, check out this short film, "The Field of Vision" by my filmmaker friend, Siri Rodnes. It's based on the Ursula Le Guin short story "The Field of Vision."

3) Amelia Earhart

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Ever since I've been into Sci-Fi, I've always dreamed of flying, and when I first learned there was another woman born a long time ago that also dreamed of being beyond the sky, I knew I had to learn more about her.  Talk about being a bold woman, this aviatrix dove head first into an all boys club and demanded to be a part of it with or without her their blessing. Just think for a moment, if this woman never existed, we wouldn't have had a Sally Ride! Heck, a myriad of fictional female pilots or space captains wouldn't have existed, as I am sure many creators based their characters on the Ms. Earhart.

2) Ellen Ripley

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Speaking of famous, female Space Captains. I saw the original "Alien" way too young. When I was a kid, my babysitter (knowing that I liked Sci-Fi) grabbed the first video on the shelf in the Sci-Fi section of the local Blockbuster, and plopped my little sister, Stella, and myself in front of the TV so she could "hang out" with the boyfriend. While the movie scared Stella for life, I was in awe of this strong sweaty woman named Ripley. There she was, in command of a crew of men and had to lead them against a ferocious monster. She was also the first female character I saw on screen that wasn't pining for the attention of a man. All she was interested in was doing her job. I must admit, Ripley has been the basis for a lot of the characters in my own work and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I'm really looking forward to seeing her in the saddle again for the Neil Blomkamp reboot.

1) Grace Hooper

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The number one spot goes to the MOTHER (^bonus points for "Alien" reference?^) of computer science, Grace Hooper. She worked on Harvard's Mark 1 computer, invented the phrase "debugging" and was a Rear Admiral in the US Navy. So if the "Avengers" were real, I'm pretty darn sure she'd be on the team.
As a Linux lover myself, I owe a big debt of gratitude to this woman for inspiring me to learn just the point and tap aspects of computers. Also, I can almost guarantee that without her, we'd still be using typewriters and pagers.

That about rounds it out. Although I did this list 1-5, the truth is I love all these ladies equally in their own unique way. As a way redeem myself for my forgetfulness I presented this list to my Margaret and asked for hers in return and I'll issue the same challenge to you. So, what women have inspired your fandom?
 
 
I had planned on avoiding the multiplex this weekend in an attempt to steer clear of the wine-drunk moms (including my own, Jackie) that were being roped-in [wink, wink] by let's face it, sub-par "Twilight" fan fiction.
Drunk Moms
Woooo! I love wine!
But after missing the bus, due to working a bit later than expected, I decided to kill some time on President's Day afternoon by taking in Hollywood's counter programing "Kingsmen: The Secret Service." Based on the trailer, I thought I'd give it a shot, as it advertised many things I like: proper English gentlemen, spies, and Colin Firth. Also, pugs.
kingsmen pug
I'm gonna need pugs... lots of pugs.
I never got around to reading the comic on which this film was based, nor am I fan of comic super scribe Mark Millar's other adaptations "Wanted" and "Kick Ass," or his actual comics for that matter. Truthfully, I find his non-Marvel Ultimate stuff to be a bit too crass for crass sake, much like the writing of Garth Ennis. For the record, Millar's work on "Ultimate Spiderman" and "Ultimate Fantastic Four" is great though, and I highly recommend it if you haven't read any of it. Anyway, armed with a stack of theater gift cards from this past Christmas, I figured I had nothing to lose so I bought a ticket for "Kingsmen."
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If you're not familiar with this film, here's a synopsis:
Gary "Eggsy" Unwin (Taron Egerton), whose late father secretly worked for a spy organization, lives in a South London housing estate and seems headed for a life behind bars. However, dapper agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) recognizes potential in the youth and recruits him to be a trainee in the secret service. Meanwhile, villainous Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) launches a diabolical plan to solve the problem of climate change via a worldwide killing spree.
PictureEggsy.
Now I really won't spoil it for you as it's still fresh, but I found this film to be really good entry in the realm of comic book adaptations.  It was still vulgar and bloody violent, but it was smoothed out by the lead character Eggsy's attempt to transform from a street rat into a proper gentleman ala "My Fair Lady."  Plus all the well-dressed man candy helped me overlook the giant story flaws. There are also a few fun cameos, including a Jedi other than Mr. Samuel L. Windu. The action is solid, the dialogue is witty and funny, and the world felt like it had a rich history, including a connection to King Arthur and his knights of the round table. If anything, I think director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) stuck a little too close to the source material as the film felt a little too comic booky.

Honestly, I was surprised to find that I enjoyed this film and recommend it, but the quality of the film wasn't the only thing I was surprised by. On the silver screen sea of good looking, Savile Row suited, well-groomed British men, I was awestruck by the film's deadly damsel, Gazelle as played by Sofia Boutella.

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Sofia Boutella as Gazelle. Cheers.
In the film, Gazelle is the evil henchman of billionaire bad boy Valentine as played by Samuel L. Jackson. She's a fierce, fast-moving, assassin with legs made of blades. As cool as this film femme fatale was at giving our heroes a run for their money, I was more entranced by the actress playing her. She just had a presence on screen that captured my attention. I was trying to think in my head if I had ever seen her before in another film, but I was stumped
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Insert: Mother F&%!
After the movie, I went home and looked her up online. It turns out that "Kingsmen" is her first Hollywood film and most of her previous work is French Cinema. I think she did really well in the role and pulled off the action scenes with grace and authenticity. I think she would have made an excellent Wonder Woman and I hope she gets a chance to play another comic book character again soon.
With the slew of super hero movies set from all studios until 2099, and the call for more women in tights, I'm sure she'll get a chance to suit up again soon.
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Anyone thinking what I'm thinking?
If not, maybe once my friend Tiffany sees the film, she can write me some quality Gazelle fan fiction.

I just ordered the trade paperback of "Kingsmen: The Secret Service" on Amazon, you can too here:

You can find out more about the book on Amazon. Use either link.