The Avengers stars including Mark Ruffalo and Chris Evans have come together to make a cancer-stricken fan's dream come true. Brit Stratford Caldecott, 60, was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2011 and doctors have now given him just weeks to live. His daughter, Sophie, launched a social media campaign appealing to Marvel bosses to send her father a DVD of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as Caldecott, a huge Marvel Comics fan, is too ill to make it to the cinema.
Using the hashtag #CapForStrat, users on Twitter and Instagram began taking photos of themselves holding up signs appealing to the cast of The Avengers and actors from TV series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to join the cause. Ruffalo, who plays The Hulk in the blockbuster franchise, was the first to send his support with a photo of himself holding up a sign which read: "Banner/Hulk for Strat! #CapForStrat". He added the caption: "Hang tough Strat! We are pulling for you."
Ruffalo's co-stars soon followed suit, with Evans, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, and Cobie Smulders as well as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actors Clark Gregg, Chloe Bennet, Brett Dalton, and Elizabeth Henstridge all sending in their "Strat Selfies". Thanks to their star power, the campaign has worked - Marvel chiefs have agreed to organise a special screening of the latest Captain America movie at Caldecott's home in England.
Daughter Sophie says, "We've actually achieved what we wanted to achieve in that Marvel have got in touch and are going to arrange for dad to see The Winter Soldier at home, hopefully next week. And the selfies of support for him from the cast are just a wonderful cherry on top that are making him smile. I'm going to get them all printed out and stick them by his bed for when times get tougher."
As a stalwart Whedon fan, I've stood loyally by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. While I remain optimistic that it will soar to the heights of Buffy and Firefly, it's hard to ignore the ringing disappointment this show has been to most people (critics and otherwise) thus far.
What are the main complaints leveled at the show? Lack of a driving force, underdeveloped characters, and a deficit of the trademark Whedon sense of humor. After some decidedly mediocre offerings, the show has steadily improved – many view "F.Z.Z.T." as the show's turning point. "F.Z.Z.T." gave us much-needed character development for the FitzSimmons dynamic duo, and it was the first really character-driven episode. "The Hub" continued to flesh out relationships by pairing the agents up into odd couples (Ward and Fitz, and Skye and Simmons), "The Well" gave back story for Agent Ward (perhaps the worst offender on the milquetoast character front), "Repairs" explained to us why Agent May is so damn stoic, and the most recent episode, "The Bridge" finally began to untangle the ongoing mysteries (Couson's resurrection, Centipede, and Skye's parentage) of the season.
While on the uptick, it still has its issues: Ward is still boring, and Skye, always pushed on us as the heart of the show, is still annoying. Personally, I'd prefer a show that revolved around Coulson and adorably chipper Simmons (though I may be in the minority there). It's no Buffy (or even Dollhouse, for that matter), but I still maintain hope that the show will find its footing. Let's just hope it does so in time to get renewed for a second season.
Recently, TVLine reported that Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will debut two new recurring agents in episode 14 of the show’s first season. The agents will be “an African-American agent who specializes in combat/weapons, and a high-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent/munitions expert who has past ties to both Coulson and Ward.” But this got us to thinking about other TV characters that would excel within S.H.I.E.L.D. — and if a crossover were ever to happen, these characters should definitely be considered.
Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (Firefly)
As the leader of the Serenity, we have no doubt Mal could lead his own S.H.I.E.L.D. team — though we’re pretty sure his troupe would be even more renegade than Coulson’s bunch, which might lead to some trouble.
Ben Wyatt (Parks and Recreation)
Although S.H.I.E.L.D. is known for dangerous operations, it’s still a bureaucratic agency and needs its fair share of pencil pushers. Ben is the type of guy who gets excited about “the rules” and “accounting.”
Veronica Mars (Veronica Mars)
As a savvy teenaged detective, Veronica was not only seriously ahead of her peers in the crime-fighting department, she was excellent at reading people—which would come in handy for S.H.I.E.L.D. operations.
Chuck Bartowski (Chuck)
Chuck is a relatively normal guy who gets roped into CIA/NSA dealings and becomes a super secret agent. We have no doubt he could be useful to S.H.I.E.L.D. Plus, he’d totally be the guy everyone wants on their team.
Olivia Pope (Scandal)
Olivia deals mainly with The White House, but we believe her talents could be useful for S.H.I.E.L.D. Although, given that a lot of S.H.I.E.L.D. operations seemed to be kept so hush-hush maybe she’s already working for them.
Even though all the die-hard SkyeWard shippers are still reeling from the recent MayWard twist, and FitzSimmons shippers are still swooning over "F.Z.Z.T," brace yourself for yet another ship: Skimmons.
Yep, it's true: one Redditor asked Chloe Bennet the following question as part of her AMA (which was pretty hilarious, by the way): "What do you think of Skimmons?" Bennet's response? "I SHIP THAT S**T SO HARD." It took me a second to get on board – after all, Skye and Simmons tend to share little screen time, and they have even fewer one-on-one scenes.
But when you think about it … they have arguably more chemistry than any of the other ships; they have more chemistry than Skye and Ward, that's for sure. And their respective "bad girl"/"good girl" personas (exemplified by leather jackets vs. Peter Pan collars) make for some great comedy; they play off each other wonderfully. After all, it stands to reason that two characters who often serve as polar opposites would play off each other in a more interesting manner than two who are very similar. (I'm looking at you, strong, silent, and baggage-ridden Agents May and Ward.)
Skye and Simmons' joint espionage arc in "The Hub" was some of the funniest material on the show thus far: the scene where Skye talks Simmons (who's pretty dead-set against illegal activities: "I can't be a part of your bad girl shenanigans!") into helping her hack S.H.I.E.L.D's computer mainframe was wonderful. Oh, and Skye trying to talk ultra-awkward Simmons through smooth-talking thorny Agent Sitwell? Pure gold.
This kind of relationship; this kind of rapport and back-and-forth is the cornerstone of a classic Whedon show; for better or for worse, that famous witty banter helped make Buffy into the huge success it was. As the show continues to struggle to find its footing, Skimmons serves as a reminder for what the show should strive for: real, human interactions with a bit of sass thrown in for good measure.
Mission Briefing:This week, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gets an Asgardian-sized crossover with Thor: The Dark World, but reign in all that excitement because neither Chris Hemsworth nor Dark Elves or really anything from the film are anywhere to be found. Instead, while the team cleans up the wreckage of Thor's recent battle, a Norse-Paganist Hate Group uncovers a section of an ancient Asgardian staff (that was left on Earth hundreds of years ago and has nothing to do with the events of Thor 2) that channels the darkness of whoever touches it, and gives them a burst of super-strength and seething rage. The S.H.I.E.L.D. team must track down the other pieces of the staff before the hate group can get their hands on them and wreak havoc across the globe. First, however, they need to learn a thing or two about Asgard from a professional (nope, not Thor).
The Agents:Agent Ward is the star of the show this week. He accidentally touches the staff which dregs up some painful childhood memories that he has worked hard to push deep into the dark crevices of his psyche. Agent Ward somehow manages to be even more broody than normal (which is impressive), and in his new found rage, he says some nasty things to his fellow agents, but that's just the alien staff talking, right?
Mission Fallout:The team seeks out professor Elliot Randolph, an expert on Asgardian history. The professor turns out to not be not only an Asgardian himself, but the original owner of the staff. He hid the pieces of the staff around the world hundreds of years ago. The Asgardian helps the team track down the other pieces of the staff that he hid all those years ago. They find the last piece of the staff, but also bump into the juiced-up members of the hate group. Ward and the super-powered thugs commence in a battle royale, and when Ward looks down for the count, Melinda May takes in some of the staff's power for herself and helps put the beat down into the hate group. May and Ward bond over their shared dark experiences, while Agent Coulson is still struggling to understand his second chance at life. Just how magical can Tahiti be anyway?
Mission Highlights:— It's hard not to feel a bit swindled after this episode. We were promised a Thor 2 crossover event, but the episode's plot is only just tangentially related to anything that happened in the latest Marvel film. At least we got to see some Asgardians, I guess.— Ward's backstory involving his abusive brother finally gives the character some interesting wrinkles outside of his ability to punch things really good.— After a day of kicking tail and taking names, Melinda signals Ward to come to her room to presumably have a little talk. Are they going to talk, or are they going to "talk."— Coulson quips about not being able to afford a fancy pen but you'd think someone as far up the ranks of a clandestine organization as he is would have a little bit of cash to throw around.— "You know, it'd be nice if, for once, Thor and his people sent down the god of cleaning up after yourself."
As a fan of the Whedons (and Whedon-in-law Maurissa Tancharoen), I've happily been following Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. from the get-go. While its reviews have so far have stayed mostly in the moderate-to-mediocre category, I have high hopes. I think it just needs to find its footing – it's steadily improved week by week, after all.
But the aspect of the show that bothers me most? All of the ships! Don't get me wrong; I love shipping: I'll take your Nick and Jess and raise you a Ross and Rachel. But keep in mind, this show has six series regulars, and all are neatly paired off. I mean, that would be like if Monica and Chandler flirted from episode one, and Phoebe ended up marrying Joey instead of Mike. It even has built in shipper names…from the pilot on, Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons have collectively been called FitzSimmons. And Skye and Ward, or rather, "SkyeWard" – come on.
There was hope – when the series first started, Fitz and Simmons seemingly platonic, brotherly/sisterly relationship was intriguingly unique. And I was quite pleased to see Fitz (very awkwardly) try to put the moves on Skye (because if there's anything better than shipping, it's ill-fated love triangles). But Simmons' near-death experience in "F.Z.Z.T" made it clear that she and Fitz are in looove.
In fact, this week's episode, "The Hub," only sought to increase their couple-y-ness. She frets over him as he goes on his first dangerous mission – she even makes him a sandwich, fer cryin' out loud. And don't even get me started on Ward and Skye: from his truth-serum induced admissions of her hotness, to her clunky comparisons of Ward to her ex-boyfriend Miles, you might as well hit us over the head with a frying pan. All that's not even mentioning May and Coulson: if their flirty innuendos and one-liners are any indication, we're slated to see Coulson and May fall for each other too.
What's the fix? I suppose spending your days on a jet (no matter how big that jet may be) with the same group of people would lead to some incestuous-feeling relationships. Maybe they need some juicy guest stars to join the team and shake things up a bit before mating for life like metaphorical swans.
ABC via Getty
Who is Maurissa Tancharoen? She's an executive producer (along with writing partner-cum-husband, Jed Whedon) on ABC's Avengers spin-off, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Long story short? She's awesome, and here's why:
5. She played Kilo, the spitfire active on Dollhouse. She only made a few brief cameo appearances, but they were all extremely memorable – in one episode, she tells off Fran Kranz's Topher Brink, saying, "How do you wanna straight up lie to my face, white boy? You told me you were takin' me on a treatment; I ain't got time for no nerd convention." She's got sass to spare, that's for sure.
4. In her youth, she was part of an early '90s multicultural girls' R&B group called "Pretty in Pink." Enough said.
3. If you like her music, you'll love her rendition of "Sigh No More" (music by Joss Whedon, lyrics by William Shakespeare) which she sings along with husband Jed Whedon in my favorite film of the year, Much Ado About Nothing.
2. She co-wrote and appeared in nerd masterpiece Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. She played a Captain Hammer groupie, with this memorable lyric about Penny, Captain Hammer's altruistic girlfriend: "they say she works with the homeless, and doesn't eat meat – we have a problem with her." Yeah, I'd have a problem with her, too.
1. As if being a co-creator of Dr. Horrible wasn't enough, she also wrote this awesome commentary on the lack of Asian roles in film and TV. "Nobody's Asian in the Movies" unpacks difficult (and oft-unspoken) issues of racism and tokenization. It's especially interesting when you look at Joss Whedon's not-so-stellar diversity track record – before Tancharoen came along, he produced 12 episodes of a series based largely off of Chinese culture without featuring even one Asian character. I love Firefly, but dude: not cool. In contrast to Firefly's issues (heresy, I know), it's nice to see Tancharoen ushering in Asian and Asian-American actors to primetime TV.
Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge were representing their fellow Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at New York Comic Con this weekend and had the opportunity to dispel a fan rumor. Despite the characters' close, familiar relationship, Fitz and Simmons are not brother and sister.
When someone in the audience Q&A asked about the techies' easily misinterpreted relationship, the actors laughed. De Caestecker agreed that the two often act like siblings, but also pointed out that Henstridge thinks they have an "old married couple" quality. Neither married nor blood-related, the backstory is that the characters have simply known each other for long enough to have developed a professional and personal shorthand. You know what this means, internet. Feel free to ship and fan fic away, and check out the promo for episode four below.
The action on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is thrilling, but it's the sassy one-liners that set the tone for the show. Joss Whedon's characters are always punctuating their high-pressure jobs with clever comebacks and cheeky wordplay. (Think Buffy and Firefly's Mal Reynolds.) So it's not a surprise that his televised take on the Marvel-verse is equally stacked with excitement, intrigue and puns. Here are our favorite quips from the pilot episode.
"I don't think Thor's technically a god.""Well, you haven't been near his arms."— Agents Ward and Hill have differing opinions about what qualifies one as a deity.
"Sorry, that corner was really dark, and I couldn't help myself."— The presumed dead Agent Coulson can't resist making a dramatic entrance.
"Well, you get shanked by the Asgardian Mussolini, you can tell it your way."— Loki reference — drink!
"Under 'People Skills,' she drew...I think it's a little poop. With knives sticking out of it."— We're not above a little toilet humor here at Level 7.
"This is actually where they make the red tape, isn't it?"— Agent Coulson isn't a behind-a-desk kind of guy.
"She might as well be one of those sweaty cosplay girls crowding around Stark tower.""What? I would...it was one time."— Agent Ward has Skye's number. We assume this was a good-natured ribbing of cosplay girls, since they make up about half of the audience of this series.
"She is an asset.""She is such an...wait...asset?"— These are the people we're trustring to defend our planet, by the way.
"What are we seeing?" "Well, the man is very angry at the other man."— Fitz also answers to "Captain Obvious."
"When you get back, I'll show you my thing. Ah, thing. It's my hardware. My equipment! Hang up."— And there's the inevitable phallic joke, made charming by Fitz's cute British accent and lack of smoothness.
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