Insane Things You Do When You Have a Crush

It’s summer which means that it’s that magical time of the year when a Winter 5 can become a solid Summer 7 by getting a tan, wearing little clothing and being constantly surrounded by people clouded with beer goggles.

15 Painfully Awkward Things That Will Never Cease To Be Awkward

A friend once told me that things aren't awkward until you acknowledge that they are awkward. That friend is also completely full of shit. As someone who can rattle off 10 awkward social interactions to every flawless one I've had, the struggle of successfully interacting with other human beings is very real. And though some awkwardness might be unique (Anyone else ever talk about how terrible a piece of writing was to your boss before realizing she was the one who wrote it?) there are still some moments of awkwardness that we've all experienced that, whether you decide to acknowledge it or not, will always be painful.

Childhood Movies Revisited: On The Line

Think back to the days when frosted tips were hot, Lance Bass was thought to be straight and people would watch anything if there were members of boy bands in it (even if they were only the background  guys). Welcome to the year 2001 and welcome to the movie On The Line - that movie that didn't star Justin Timberlake and nobody saw except a few sexually repressed pre-teens who wrote about it in their diaries later (true story...).

Real Life Superpowers That Are Actually Useful

With about 50 movies featuring hot people in intricate suits saving the world with powers like superhuman strength, mind control and just really good martial arts, the whole superhero genre can be exhausting and unrelatable. Sure, it's awesome that Spider-man can spin webs but the ability to tell the future so I know if this Tinder date will be a complete bust? That is a power I can get behind. So, here are the superpowers that I would actually like to have IRL.

No Weight Gain


I would trade any useless power like super human strength (cool party trick, bro) or invisibility (shady, much?) to be able to consume half a pizza, a pint of beer and a Baskin-Robbins clown cone and not gain a single pound. Actually I would prefer to get hotter and fitter with each bite. 

Ability to Tell The Future So I Can Plan My Social Life Accordingly

I couldn’t care less about when I’ll die or whatever else people think they want to know about their futures. I would like to know if this dude from the bar will actually text me back or if this party is going to be fun. Most nights I just want to chill at home with no pants on so the ability to know if leaving is worth it would really take my life up a notch.

No Hangover

I would gladly welcome a nuclear disaster, genetic mutation, spider bite or whatever it takes to be able to go hard on a weekend and not have a single trace of a hangover the next day.

Time Freezing To Fit in More TV


There are so many shows that need to be binged and just so little time – it’s a real struggle. Imagine a world where you can stop time so you can finally finish all of Breaking Bad, The Wire and catch up on Game of Thrones. My brain is turning to beautiful, idiotic mush just thinking about it. 


Someone who can actually get stuff done is a real hero in my books. Can you imagine having the power to actually work for 8 hours a day, have a clean living space, run errands, pay bills AND exercise? No person like this would ever exist but I would gladly accept it as fantasy.

Accurate Gaydar


As someone who has had many crushes on clearly gay men, the ability to actually tell when someone is just not into me (and my gender) would really help in the dating department and save me from so much heartbreak. 

Ability to Pretend Like I Care

As a mere mortal, I cannot actually hide the fact that I hate everyone and everything. A true superhero would be able to really fake it til they make it by being able to smile and say nice to things to awful people. That superhero would also be an angel.


As entertaining as public transportation is, think of all of the money and near death experiences that can be saved by just appearing everywhere. I'd be able to sleep in longer before work and don't have to do the Sunday morning ritual of seeing how many Uber rides I drunkenly took the night before.


A truly fantastic superhero origin story would be about a painfully awkward woman who can barely hold a normal conversation with a stranger without completely weirding people out. She is kidnapped and genetically altered to be charming, witty and appropriate. That would be a real dream and honestly what I hope would happen to me everyday.

Anti-Aging with Anti-Responsibilities


Not so much a superpower as much as something that tends to come with the territory, not aging would be great especially if it came with age appropriate responsibilities. Sure, I've been alive for 60 years but physically I'm a 21 year old so excuse me while I binge drink and pretend not to know what taxes are.

Basic Life Skills


Actually if I'm going to be honest, I would love to be a superhero that is just a functioning human being who knows how to do stuff like cook, read the newspaper and make my own dentist appointments. My superhero suit would not have a cape or leather, it would instead be tailored, work appropriate and from somewhere other than Forever 21.



She is some type of super human right? Yeah I'd like to just be her. End of story. Let's start making this movie, Marvel.

MCU Primer: Phase Two

Hmm… You’ve gotten a little paler since Phase 1. Oh, and the night sweats are persisting?

I’m sorry to say this, but it seems as if you’re still in the grips of that ignominious illness known as superhero fever. Have no fear, though. You’re really going to enjoy it when Iron Man faces off against Captain America and...OH MY GOD, SPIDER-MAN’S THERE, TOO!!!!!!!

Whoa, got a little carried away there with spoilers. In celebration of Captain America: Civil War, I present the second of the two-part MCU Primer. Yep, it’s time to move on to Phase Two with...

Iron Man 3 (2013)

…your favorite billionaire playboy. Well, not so much a playboy this go-round. In Iron Man 3, Tony finds himself committed solely to the one and only Pepper Potts. But monogamy isn’t the only thing on Tony’s docket. He finds himself up against terrorists, severe panic attacks, and the holiday blues. Yep, that’s right. Iron Man 3 has the distinction of being the sole Christmas film of the MCU franchise...the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service of the Marvel canon, if you will.

With the addition of jingle bells comes Shane Black of Lethal Weapon fame to helm the darkest chapter in Tony Stark’s history. While the humor is still present, Black does an excellent job instilling a sense of real danger throughout. OG director Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan is maimed, Tony’s Malibu mansion is destroyed, and the Extremis-infused villains are nigh indestructible.

After his Fortress of Solitude is destroyed, Tony finds himself wandering Appalachia searching for answers. This proves to be a hugely entertaining detour not only because Tony relies solely on his wits outside of his element, but he meets a precocious kid (Ty Simpkins) who happens to be a thinly-veiled version of himself.

A slew of memorable set pieces make Iron Man 3 stand out in the MCU lineup. Tony’s house falling in the ocean, an inconceivably difficult game of Barrel of Monkeys, and a delirious finale on an oil rig are only isolated pieces that make up a fantastic whole. It also helps that the villains this time are more complex than “Iron Man in a bigger suit”.

HEY, IT’S THAT RANDOM COMEDIAN: Adam Pally as a Tony Stark-obsessed cameraman. You’ll know him from either Happy Endings or The Mindy Project, hopefully not from the horrific Stark goatee he sports in this film.

MCU VERDICT: Tony proves he’s more fa-la-la-la-flawed than ever. A-.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor: The Dark World isn’t bad, per se, it’s just an odd misstep sandwiched between two incredible MCU entries. Now that audiences know the heights the franchise can reach, it feels strange when stakes are lowered from a character’s previous outings.

The plot doesn’t really matter. All you really need to know is that the seven realms are lining up (apparently a big deal) and a new Infinity Stone is introduced.

What makes Dark World most problematic is that it feels distinctly different from the original. The script loses the Shakespearean wit that made Thor unique. Not even Anthony Hopkins can make the line, “You must think I am a piece of bread that needs to be buttered so heavily,” sound clever. The direction by Alan Taylor isn’t as bold (you’ll find no Dutch angles here) and the visuals seem generic. A spacecraft attack on Asgard is right out of Star Wars (not in a good way).

Also, there’s a moment in the first act that shows a news clip of a scientist running naked through Stonehenge, deranged. Later in the film, a character watches the same clip on TV, finally discovering where the missing Dr. Erik Selvig went. It’s awkward writing, editing, and plotting and clearly doesn’t belong in the movie. In fact, it’s representative of Dark World’s “What Do We Do With Our Human Characters?” problem. No Earthling really has a place in the story, a difficulty that the original movie’s fish out of water premise solved.

Credit where credit’s due, there’s a cool interdimensional teleportation fight at the end (yeah, it’s as fun as it sounds). It’s the movie’s sole saving grace so, if you do decide to watch, you’ll probably thank yourself for skipping to the climax.

HEY, IT’S THAT RANDOM COMEDIAN: Chris O’Dowd as Jane Foster’s perfectly decent date. As a matter of fact, after abandoning Jane for two years, Thor’s a pretty awful boyfriend. Go with Chris, Jane. You’ll be rolling in Bridesmaids residuals for years.

MCU VERDICT: Something’s rotten in the state of Asgard. C.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Whoa, Momma. This is the big one.

There’s a lot of contributing factors to admire when considering the crème de la crème of Phase Two. Winter Soldier is the Marvel debut of Anthony and Joe Russo as directors, collectively known as the Russo brothers. Cap has a cool new suit and gets to hang out with Nick Fury and Black Widow. There’s a guy that’s literally named Falcon who flies around with a pair of metallic wings. Danny Pudi’s hanging around. The main thing to like about Winter Soldier, though, is that it’s a fascinating, logical continuation of the Steve Rogers character from First Avenger.

As a black and white warrior thrust into a world filled to capacity with gray, Steve learns there’s a diminishing number of people he can trust. As the movie opens, he’s fighting for SHIELD, a bastion of well-intentioned morality. SHIELD assembled the Avengers so it has to be on the side of the angels, right?


As the plot unfolds, the absolutes Steve believes in start to crumble. It becomes a dark, adult story of paranoia, betrayal, and deception. Not exactly the Star Spangled Man of First Avenger.

The icing on the cake of a fantastic story are the action sequences, expertly directed by the Russo brothers. There’s not a bad set piece in the lot, the highlights being: Cap’s raid on the Lumerian Star, the vehicular attack on Fury, the near-perfect elevator scene, the intense freeway standoff, and the Triskelion climax.

HEY, IT’S THAT RANDOM COMEDIAN: D.C. Pierson as an Apple store employee. Probably the comedian that jams the most funny into the briefest appearance.

MCU FINAL VERDICT: Welcome back, Cap. A+.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

If you had to explain Guardians to a friend, you’d probably sum it up as “Star Wars with golden oldies”. You wouldn’t technically be wrong, but there’s so much to enjoy about the movie, it’s almost impossible to sum up in a brief sentence. So I’ll try a list.

In no particular order:

  • Chris Pratt
  • Chris Pratt’s abs.
  • A talking raccoon.
  • A gentle tree creature with a limited vocabulary.
  • Bautista.
  • Neytiri from Avatar in a different shade.
  • Benicio Del Toro coming out of his underground cloud dwelling to assume the role he was born to play, The Collector.
  • Cruella being nice.
  • All your Dad’s favorite songs.
  • James “Colt 45” Gunn directing (I made that up, no one calls him that).
  • Almost no connection to the larger MCU so it’s kinda refreshing (“But Thanos is in it…” “SHUT UP!”).
  • A mini-Avengers team-up. There’s less character build-up and waaaaaaay more dysfunction.

In short, see it. It’s awesome, it’s funny, and it’s easily Marvel’s breeziest outing so far.

HEY, IT’S THAT RANDOM COMEDIAN: Peter Serafinowicz as a Nova Corps officer who goes down with his ship. Fun fact: he also played Lord Edgar Covington on Parks and Recreation, a British lord who hires Chris Pratt’s character to run a charity in England. The job took Chris Pratt’s character off the show long enough to film Guardians, so I guess we should all thank Serafinowicz for this movie..

MCU FINAL VERDICT: Hopefully, your reflexes are as fast and Guardians’ excellence doesn’t fly over your head. A.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

And now we come to the most problematic film in the series so far. After giving fans everything they could possibly want, how could Joss Whedon possibly follow up Avengers? The answer: make James Spader a homicidal robot. The real answer: upping the ante for a well-received blockbuster is hard and sometimes even your heroes falter.

Take for instance Tony Stark, a man who knows the Avengers aren’t going to be around forever. He teams up with Bruce Banner to find a solution for the innumerable threats that could pour out of a wormhole at any given moment. Their efforts to create a “suit of armor around the world” result in a failure of Frankensteinian proportions, an all-knowing, omnipresent artificial intelligence known as Ultron.

James Spader as Ultron accomplishes what the script set out to do, but something about his character feels out of place. In fact, it’s difficult to pinpoint negativity on specifics in this film. The Whedon wit, within the writing and directing, is perfectly intact, but Ultron seems to lose the elegance that made the original so enjoyable.

There’s no scene in Ultron comparable to Tony Stark’s slick tête-à-tête with Loki before the Battle of New York: “‘Cause if we can’t protect the Earth you can be damn well sure we’ll avenge it.” In fact, a good portion of the movie takes place in a bleak, fictional Eastern European country called Sokovia. The rich settings of Avengers (a black tie affair in Germany, a cool SHIELD Helicarrier, the majority of Manhattan in its go-for-broke finale) are swapped for bland international locales (Sokovian Hydra castle, Wakandan mines, Sokovian church, South Korean highways, Sokovian snow forest, Sokovian police station, Sokovian coffee shop, TOO MUCH SOKOVIA).

However, the fact that the majority of the third act involves superheroes saving people will forever place the MCU leagues ahead of that other comic book movie universe. Also, a section in the middle of the movie makes you wish there were more “let’s all go to an idyllic farmhouse” moments in blockbusters.

HEY, IT’S THAT RANDOM COMEDIAN: Linda Cardellini from Freaks and Geeks shows up as an important figure in Hawkeye’s life. She brings a much-needed warmth to the narrative and seals her place as Most Welcome Guest Star in movies and TV.

MCU FINAL VERDICT: Needed some more assembly. B-.

Ant-Man (2015)

Paul Rudd’s entrée into superhero stardom now seems inevitable. He’s a good-looking guy with a knack for delivering one-liners. All he needed was a couple months in the gym, a wise-cracking sidekick, and a suit that gives him the ability to shrink to the size of a postage stamp. Wait, what was that last one?

With a seemingly impossible premise (a guy fights crime when he’s the size of a tulip pistil), the writers make a smart move by centering the story around a heist. That way, reformed criminal Scott Lang (Rudd) can team up with retired superhero Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) in a genre the audience has familiarity with (if they’ve ever seen an Ocean’s movie).

The visual effects of the film, mixed with a healthy amount of macro photography, gives Ant-Man a feel unlike any other MCU entry. The central heist leads to a brilliantly choreographed finale that takes place entirely in a little girl’s bedroom, a refreshingly low-key climax after Ultron’s continent-displacing ending.

With a viewing of Ant-Man comes the inevitable question, “What if?”  Edgar Wright is credited as co-writer on the project, but he was supposed to direct. After a highly-publicized departure where Wright cited creative differences, Peyton Reed took over as director. He and Adam McKay took another shot at the script and it’s impossible to say which version of the movie would’ve been better. My brain knows it’ll never happen but my heart really wants an Ant-Man where Simon Pegg and Nick Frost show up as part of Scott’s heist gang.

The ideas in the movie are intelligent, even if the script is clumsy and obvious in parts. Reed’s direction, aided by stellar visual effects, can be immensely clever, but the editing is noticeably underwhelming. The training montages don’t pack the punch they ought to and the length of the last shot is nothing short of bewildering.

But come on, don’t be a Pissant-Man. You’ve got a guy who can shrink to the size of a curd of cottage cheese. It’s fun!

HEY, IT’S THAT RANDOM COMEDIAN: 21 Jump Street’s  Johnny Pemberton as the worst Baskin-Robbins customer in the world. Some might say his performance is a little broad, but anyone who’s worked a customer service job before knows how spot-on he is.

MCU FINAL VERDICT: He can shrink down to the size of a..hmmm...I think I’m out of funny small things. Oh wait...a garbanzo bean. Yeah, a garbanzo bean. B.

And that wraps up your two-part MCU Primer. Hope it’s been moderately helpful. Enjoy Civil War, peeps, and call your mother. It’s the least you can do.


This post by the always fantastic - Brian Bolt who doesn't discriminate between superhero universes....Check out his Cool Cat interview and Phase One of the MCU Primer.

MCU Primer: Phase One

Do you feel bad all over? Do aches and pains keep you from living the life you want? Do you habitually wake up in a cold sweat screaming, “Why Jimmy Olsen, Snyder?! Is nothing sacred?!”

You, my friend, could be in the unrelenting grip of that dastardly malady known as superhero fever, a plague prophesied to seize the nation in the two-thousand and sixteenth year of our Lord when there is more superpowered entertainment in multiplexes than ever before. So much so, that an implosion of the genre may be imminent…

Or you may just be recovering from a three hour bender known as Batman v. Superman. If that’s the case, shake off that lost weekend and get ready for the newest addition to a franchise actually concerned with telling stories, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (heretofore referred to as the MCU).

The following is an MCU primer to prep for Captain America: Civil War, which is shaping up to be another gold star in the Marvel catalogue. Think of it as a refresher course if you already know your Howling Commandos from your Warriors Three.

If you’re an MCU newbie, have no fear. This primer serves as your guide into the weird and wonderful world of all things Avengers-y. Let’s get started...

Iron Man (2008)

...with the man who’s responsible for the whole universe. That’s right, the billionaire playboy with a high-tech suit of armor, Tony Stark. If Iron Man hadn’t been such a hit, there’d be no Shane Black resurgence, no sexy Chris Pratt, and your Mom wouldn’t keep asking you who Loki is.

Without a doubt, the ingenious casting of Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark is the secret ingredient to this film’s success. No one really expected the actor, who suffered from a dark past of substance abuse and addiction, to pull off a summer tentpole. The end result, though, is nothing short of alchemical.

Downey’s Tony Stark is selfish, peculiar, arrogant, neurotic, hedonistic, and, most importantly, intensely likeable. He’s the kind of guy you’d want to grab a drink with, if you were remotely capable of holding his attention over a drink.

But director Jon Favreau knows that it’s not enough for the audience to want to hang out with Tony. They have to care about him. As Iron Man unfolds, Tony goes on a journey of redemption, finding his moral center in a world wrought with greed and violence. A stellar supporting cast helps (Gyweneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, and Jeff Bridges) but it’s Tony’s arc that makes the MCU’s first entry required viewing.

It’s clear, though, that the franchise is still finding its “voice”. There’ll be recasting and there’s more sex than Marvel’s brand usually allows. Overall, though, the film defines a tone that will lead the MCU to improbable staying power.

Lastly, the franchise has a habit of putting fun comedians in key roles. In honor of that tradition:

HEY, IT’S THAT RANDOM COMEDIAN: Talledega Nights’ Leslie Bibb, as a journalist who challenges Tony’s personal beliefs in Las Vegas only to wake up in his bed in Malibu the next morning. Keeping her source under wraps, indeed.

MCU VERDICT: Introduces the best character but is still Iron-ing out the details. A-.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

It’s as if Marvel is begging you to skip this one. Besides an end-credits cameo from Tony Stark, there’s nothing anchoring this movie in the MCU. In fact, Marvel execs recast this movie’s Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) with a palate cleanser (Mark Ruffalo) when it came time for The Avengers to assemble. Norton’s decidedly not the worst thing about The Incredible Hulk, just an unfortunate scapegoat in an effort to make audiences forget this movie’s existence.

But let’s get down to the nitty gritty. This film is ostensibly about Bruce Banner searching for a cure for his big green illness, but, in point of fact, it’s about a film searching for a plot.

The biggest issue is that there’s not really a first act. In lieu of introducing principal characters and motivations, the movie gives you a title sequence that illustrates a failed gamma radiation experiment wherein Bruce acquires his verdant rage issues. This is probably because Ang Lee’s Hulk occurred five years prior and the creative team didn’t want to rehash a similar plot (it’s fun to remember the days when studios cared about stuff like that).

Instead, the film plops you in Rio where certified genius Bruce Banner works in a bottling factory (because why not?) and hides from US military. There’s no real character introduction, he’s just an anxious white guy in South America sticking out like a sore thumb..

I think it might be trying to be a Hitchcockian chase movie, which is a subgenre that could work pretty well in the superhero genre, but for that to succeed, you’d have to have three-dimensional characters. The Incredible Hulk does not.

It has characters who whisper a lot (Norton and Liv Tyler), characters who shout a lot (William Hurt and a woefully miscast Tim Blake Nelson), and characters who are completely CGI (whatever Tim Roth turns into in the third act). There’s no room for nuance here. The only actor actually turning in a performance is Roth and he’s not even present in the third act (because of the aforementioned CG abomination).

The Hulk effects in the movie are close to looking believable, but it’s clear that benchmark hasn’t been reached (audiences will have to wait four more years for a credible-looking Hulk). Mix that with an emotionless finale reminiscent of the recent Batman v. Superman and a “Fuck you, audience” final shot and you’ve got a deadly cocktail on your hands.

HEY, IT’S THAT RANDOM COMEDIAN: A pre-Modern Family Ty Burrell, who plays the guy who rats Bruce Banner out to the military. I look forward to the movie that lets Burrell show off his dramatic chops...this...this isn’t it.

MCU VERDICT: Displays a lack of narrative intelligence that makes me angry. You won’t like me when I’m angry. D.

Iron Man 2 (2010)
Let’s get this out of the way. Iron Man 2 isn’t as good as the original. The novelty of a man flying in a metal suit is lost, the story flounders in the middle, and, for the first time, the audience gets a taste of MCU set dressing. However, Jon Favreau still knows how to make an entertaining film and, at its best, Iron Man 2 is still funny, exhilarating, and compelling. Also, it’s got a little ace in the hole known as Robert Downey, Jr.

After revealing himself to the world at the end of Iron Man’s first outing, Tony Stark finds himself in the public eye in a big way. Most people love him. Others, a  rival weapons manufacturer, a Congressional committee, and a Russian weirdo with a thing for whips, aren’t so fond of the high-flying hero.

There’s a lot of external forces attacking Tony this time around but, on an internal level, he realizes that wearing the Iron Man suit is actually killing him. To be specific, the palladium core powering the arc reactor keeping him alive is killing him. Iron Man just happens to be hastening him to an early grave.

Tony Stark’s internal battles are innately more interesting than what’s happening around him, mostly because Downey is so good at the part. A sequence in the middle of the film where Tony creates a new element is probably my favorite part of the movie because the audience gets to spend time with its main character solving a problem without blasting anything.

If you think about the movie’s plot for too long, it feels scattered and a little directionless, but the experience of watching it is filled with individual delights. Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer is possibly the best comedic force in a Marvel movie ever. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is introduced in a clandestine, kick-ass way that cements her as an MCU staple. Iron Man even lounges in the big Randy’s Donuts doughnut and we get to hear Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury say, “Sir, I’m gonna have to ask you to exit the doughnut.” Come on, that’s some good stuff!

HEY, IT’S THAT RANDOM COMEDIAN: Garry Shandling, as the eternally annoyed senator leading the charge against Tony Stark. It would’ve been a throwaway role if not put in Shandling’s smarmy hands.

MCU FINAL VERDICT: Not as well-oiled as the original but a helluva lotta fun. B-.

Thor (2011)

It’s apparent that things are gonna be different as soon as the first scene’s lower third appears: Tønsberg, Norway 965 AD. Yep, it’s that kind of movie.

Thor is the film where Marvel first let its freak flag fly. It tells the story of a vain, warmongering Asgardian royal (Chris Hemsworth) who is cast down to Earth by his disapproving father (Anthony Hopkins). What ensues is an entertaining tale of a living Viking legend learning to become a leader by having everything that makes him legendary stripped from him.

Oh, and there’s Frost Giants.

The narrative is equal parts Shakesperean epic and fish out of water comedy. Your appreciation for the movie will likely depend on your willingness to accept both parts of the equation. I, for one, think the film succeeds in both instances.

Kenneth Branagh is a good pick for director. He’s able to wring the most out of the stilted, Shakespearean dialogue with sweeping landscape shots and meaningful Dutch angles. There are no weak links in the cast (featuring Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, and Idris Elba) and two of the set pieces are pretty spectacular (the Frost Giant battle on Jotunheim and the bare-knuckles brawl in the SHIELD facility).

Chris Hemsworth makes Thor’s transformation from selfish to selfless believable and his relationship with Portman’s Jane Foster can be genuinely touching. On the Asgardian side of the story, Hiddleston’s Loki broods tragically but it’s not until he shows up again in The Avengers that we really get a true taste of his villainy.

HEY, IT’S THAT RANDOM COMEDIAN: Two Broke Girls’ Kat Dennings as an intern who’s a constant thorn in Jane Foster’s side. She’s vexing and troublesome as a character but her pronunciation of Thor’s mighty hammer Mjölnir (“Mew Mew”) will forever ingratiate her to me.

MCU FINAL VERDICT: A refreshing change of pace that knows how to lay the hammer down. B+.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Some movies have a lot to say about the here and now. Some movies are WWII action vehicles that are about fighting for freedom by any means necessary, by golly. Captain America: The First Avenger fits squarely in the latter category.

This movie tells the story of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who goes from being a scrawny back-alley punching bag to a courageous hero a country can rally behind. All it takes is a little faith from German scientist Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) and a few doses of “vita-rays” and Steve becomes a super-buff super-soldier.

It’s definitely the most engaging plot of the franchise so far and the first MCU film with a real villain, the ghoulishly sinister Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). There’s a decidedly un-Marvel-like montage in the middle of the film where Steve suffers from politicians using him as a dancing monkey to encourage war bond purchases (there’s even an Alan Menken number!). Later, there’s a perfectly Marvel-like montage where Captain America kicks ass with his Howling Commandos. Both are great but First Avenger nailing Steve’s emotional turmoil as honestly as its action set pieces is a welcome surprise.

Joe Johnston (of Rocketeer fame) crafts a tonally deliberate film that’s wholesome and old-fashioned at its core. The action is rah-rah patriotic and the villain twirls his mustache with the best of ‘em. The battleground is clearly demarcated in black and white, which makes it all the more compelling when Steve is thrust into shades of gray in future MCU installments.

HEY, IT’S THAT RANDOM COMEDIAN: No comedian this go round but watch out for a cameo from a pre-Game of Thrones Natalie Dormer as a blonde seductress who tries to steal a smooch from Steve.

MCU FINAL VERDICT: A rousing story that only gets better with age, just like Cap. A.

The Avengers (2012)

After four years of anticipation, it’s the main event...and it doesn’t disappoint.

That’s right, this time around writer/director Joss Whedon knows what he’s doing and he absolutely nails it. Tony Stark gets to be clever in a way that doesn’t totally feel like tossed off Downey improv. The Hulk looks cool (finally) and for the first time gets to smashy-smashy in a fun way. Thor gets to trade blows with his ne’er-do-well brother. Captain America gets to lead a team and learn that there’s no place like home (“I understood that reference”).

In short, it’s a gut punch of awesome. Whedon moves his superhero chess pieces around in an emotionally complex way and it’s easy to tell he’s having fun doing it. The intelligent and geographically cohesive climax serves as a masterclass for any big-budget filmmaker who wants to balance high-stakes and character dynamics. Pair that with a rich score by Alan Silvestri and it’s a perfect blockbuster, plain and simple.

By far the crown gem of the MCU gauntlet and the perfect way to end Phase One.

HEY, IT’S THAT RANDOM COMEDIAN: How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie Smulders as Nick Fury’s gal Friday, Maria Hill. She’s tough, she’s smart, but she should keep a closer watch on her Galaga-playing employees.

MCU FINAL VERDICT: A blockbuster masterpiece that’ll make your Joss drop (yeah, not my best). A+.

That’s it for Phase One. But don’t worry, you don’t have to have Heimdall’s sight to know that Phase Two is coming soon. Until next time...Excelsior!

This post by my favorite guest author, Brian Bolt. Check out his April Cool Cat interview to get to know more (you know you want to).