Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Here it is. I’ve been waiting for this movie ever since seeing the first Avengers, and I’ve been hoping for access to an early screening to the sequel ever since, well, I’ve been going to early screenings.

Here it is. I was able to catch Avengers: Age of Ultron in theaters yesterday at an early press screening. (Thank you, YelpDC!) I got there 2 hours early and I was SO excited in my lazy Scarlet Witch-bound.

I am of the firm belief that I photograph so much better when the top of my face is excluded.
I am of the firm belief that I photograph much better when the top of my face is excluded.

MANY spoilers will be following the trailer, so please be aware of this! I’m not sure how much you all know about the movie already (some things have been revealed over the past few months) so I’ll try to keep it as vague as possible with regards to actual plot points.
Note: I wasn’t sure where in the MCU timeline the events of AOU were meant to take place. Right after Winter Soldier? How does Agents of SHIELD factor in, especially since I don’t watch AoS so… I had to do a little bit of research afterwards since AoS does have tie-ins with AOU.

(Abbreviations I will be using in this review: AOU = Age of Ultron, aka this movie; AoS = Agents of SHIELD; MCU = Marvel Cinematic Universe)

You know what, I’m likely going to watch this in theaters again at a later time. The problem with seeing it with zealous fans this early on is… they’re very excited. Someone kept clapping during the screening, a girl fangirl-screamed at one point. Full-on squeal/shriek/scream with delight. (Maybe it was horror, who really knows.) Sometimes you miss dialogue because the audience is laughing too hard at a joke or because there is applause throughout the theater. It makes for a fun experience, but you miss things in the movie as a result.

Of course, the movie was spectacular. It was fun and exciting to watch, and it delivered on many of the things that we have come to expect from Marvel films. This review will sound nitpicky, and that’s likely because I have just been anticipating this for so long and it’s easy to nitpick at a sequel, you know? But I loved this movie, I did. It isn’t perfect and no movie is.

It kept with the tone of the first Avengers film, which was easy since director Joss Whedon returned for this one. However, when the Russo brothers were announced to be coming onboard for the 3rd film, I remember being really confused by the response from some parts of the MCU fandom that went “Good riddance!” Wasn’t everyone so excited that Whedon directed the first one? Wasn’t a really good portion of the MCU fandom also Whedonites? I didn’t really understand when people became so anti-Whedon and/or pro-Russo brothers?

Here’s Joss on the set of the first Avengers film. Hey, it’s good that he makes work so fun.

But by the time AOU was over, I kind of understood the decision to go with a different directing style for the next Avengers film. I felt a bit burdened by Whedon’s one-liners and quips by the end of the movie. It felt like when the class clown — who everyone knows is funny — makes just a few too many jokes during a class presentation. It’s not that the jokes don’t land but it feels like he is trying a bit too hard to make you laugh when you’re not there to laugh your butt off. Did I find Whedon’s jokes funny? Sure. But did I want to be laughing at these quips every 5 minutes? Not really. I was pretty tired of them, to be really honest with you all. Still, the quality of Whedon jokes is good; it just felt like the quantity was a bit excessive. And I think it is strange with regards to the tone of the MCU as a whole. Iron Man movies are pretty snarky, because Tony Stark is Tony Snark. Every Avenger movie has its share of jokes and quips. But this one seemed to try much harder than the others, and to me, it seemed to slightly disrupt the overall tone of the MCU. Is that a strange thing to say?

STILL a fan of a Whedon, just to be clear. And I did like the jokes, I did! It was just more than I expected.

AOU starts off in the middle of action, and it was a little disorienting for me for the first 15 minutes or so. I would later find out that watching AoS would probably have helped me out a bit. We begin immediately with the Avengers kicking butt and taking names to find Loki’s staff (yep, the same one from the last Avengers movie). Like I said, I was a bit disoriented about what was going on and who this Strucker fella was since I didn’t remember him from any of the other Marvel movies. We definitely weren’t picking up after Cap 2, and I knew that Agents of SHIELD had handled a lot of the Hydra fall-out, etc.

So for folks who also don’t watch AoS and/or need a refresher on previous events: Baron von Strucker is a doctor who has been experimenting with human enhancement. SO, when we first meet the twins — who moviegoers last saw at the end of Captain America: Winter Soldier, and who are the only surviving subjects — they are referred to as “enhanced”. As in like “there’s an enhanced here”. (This is Marvel Studios’ way of avoiding the word mutants because 20th Century Fox owns the rights to the X-Men and all mention of mutants.) This is how we enter the “Age of Miracles” and step into real superpowers within the MCU, which until now only had Asgardian pseudo-godliness and some superserum-induced abilities in addition to highly trained operatives and whatever you would classify Tony Stark as.

From their post-credits scene in Captain America: Winter Soldier — the twins.

ANYWAY. Thanks to the Scarlet Witch, we are able to explore some of the things that haunt the Avengers. It’s a nice way to see what motivates Tony, Natasha, Steve, Bruce, and Thor a bit. One of my favorite things about the Avengers movies is that you don’t lose sight of each individual character, their individual nuances, their individual motivations. As we move forward in the Marvel timeline, it’s important for us to see the very crucial differences in their worldviews and how those differences affect their actions.

Of course, it isn’t really an Avengers movie until they fight each other a bit. Their harmony as a team is only rivaled by their dissonance in conflict. The dynamics between the Avengers is really nice. Tony and Bruce science-bro-ing it up. (SCIENCE!) Tony and Cap’s ideological differences. Steve and Thor’s excellent chemistry in battle (Chris Squared forever!). (And okay, there’s one dynamic that I really didn’t like how they executed in this movie, I’ll talk about that in my spoilers.)

Clint isn’t in this shot because, well, you’ll see.

Avengers movies excel in bringing together these heroes and showing us how they play off each other. Half of them have their own film franchises now, and each one has their own style and ego. My favorite thing about the Avengers is the relationships between the characters. It’s especially fun because we see characters from individual franchises that get introduced to the mix, like Rhodey (War Machine from the Iron Man franchise) and Sam (Falcon from Captain American: Winter Soldier).

Also thank goodness there are some PoCs in this one. Don Cheadle and Anthony Mackie and Claudia Kim (I’ll talk about her character in the spoilers section) added some much-needed diversity to the cast.
Even though they’re barely hardly in the movie at all. It’s a start, Marvel. It’s a start. But you can do better and you know that.

With regards to our new characters, the twins, I liked their dynamic a lot. They don’t really look anything alike, but it was a pretty convincing sibling relationship. I am always very wary when brother-sister duos get announced, because sometimes the actors play off each other with far too much sexual tension for sibling relations. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen did nicely in this regard.
HOWEVER (no one is safe), their accents were a bit wonky. Elizabeth’s sounded decent, but she wouldn’t consistently speak with it. You could hear a very distinct American accent slip out pretty often. Aaron’s seemed like a bit much; I got a bit of a Borat vibe from his accent. Luckily for us, the two of them didn’t have that many lines, but I do wish they worked with their dialect coaches a little bit more.

Not sure how much I liked Ultron as a villain. He seemed a bit shallow for a Marvel villain, so it was disappointing. It just seemed like we don’t really delve very deep into his motivations and his thought process as a villain. He jumps so suddenly to villainous intent, and we don’t really explore how he got there or get a glimpse of how he’s doing the right thing from his perspective.  It’s hard to sympathize with him as a villain, which makes him a weak villain. Marvel is better than this, so it was disappointing. I guess the true villain(s) of the movie are their inner demons blah blah whatever. Andy Serkis has just the tiniest presence in the movie and that was disappointing, too, although I am guessing we’ll see more of him in the future?

I can’t really complain too much about the action sequences. Marvel delivers wonderfully on action movies, but with Avengers movies, you often have so many important characters on screen and there were so many cuts within any given fight scene that it was easy to just get lost. I kind of tuned out a lot of the action sequences because it was easier than trying to watch a flurry of arms and legs and guns and robots in IMAX 3D.

I was confused about Natasha’s TRON-esque catsuit. Why were there lights running through it? It was pretty cool but I didn’t understand the tactical reason for this. And she didn’t seem to have a set weapon or anything. I mean, her skillset is her weapon, I suppose, but she had guns, she had cool electric… dagger… things? No signature weapon and, seemingly, no assigned weapon? I loved that Clint (Hawkeye) got a lot more screentime compared to his brainwashed self in the first movie, although his personality is still not really fleshed out at this point. He was on screen and even got lines, but he was still not really an active character in the movie. (Do you see how small he is on the poster?)

It’s getting a bit dicey for me to talk about this movie without any spoilers, so let’s just jump into the spoiler section below the trailer!
Warning: It’s a lot of critiquing in this section. My big issue was that a lot of things happened in this movie that I thought there wasn’t enough of a build-up for: new characters, new situations, new relationships, etc.

Are you planning on watching Avengers: Age of Ultron?
Do you like watching MCU films? What did you think of the last Avengers movie?

LOTS OF SPOILERS COMING UP. DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU! I MEAN IT.


Here’s the latest trailer, and spoilers below the jump.

Read More »

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Eat DC: Food Trucks

In honor of Christine & Karen‘s upcoming trip to visit me in DC, I thought I’d share a little insight as to my planning process when it comes to what to show them when they are here. I am, by no means, an expert on the DC food scene, but these are the impressions I have of it. While we won’t be able to visit all of these places, I hope you will be able to at some point!


Food trucks are kind of amazing and I don’t know why they seem like such a new thing to me. I mean, I’ve been chasing ice cream trucks down the streets for decades now, but I didn’t know this was an option for every other food imaginable! (Also, ice cream truck driver, stop ignoring me just because I’m not a small child, please.)

I don’t know if I can tell you the “most DC-est” food trucks that the District has to offer. This Eat DC series has taken a lot out of me, so I just thought I’d share some food trucks that are important to me, at the very least, and I think they’re important to at least a decent proportion of DCers as well. If you want to know where these food trucks are, you can check their individual Twitter/Facebook accounts or check resources like FoodTruckFiesta.

(Note: All DC food trucks operate for lunch hours on weekdays, typically 11-3, unless they are at a special event.)

Crêpes Parfait

The non-business side of the truck (Photo courtesy of crepesparfait.com)

This adorable truck with copper pans, a little windowsill flower garden, and French music playing is easily one of my favorite food trucks. In addition to delicious crêpes, which I lurve, owners Chef Mounir Elhilali and Roberto Catanuso are such sweet and kind gentlemen. It’s hard not to smile when you walk up to the truck, these two men smiling at you from underneath their berets, and get wrapped up in the feeling that you’re walking into a French bistro and not relishing your small break from the workday. You can get a gluten-free one, if you’d like, and they make their own lemonades and iced teas! Je vous adore, Crêpes Parfait!

Popular items include chicken crêpeNutella and banana crêpe,  and ham crêpe

Website: crepesparfait.com
Twitter: @CrepesParfait // Facebook: /CrepesParfait

TaKorean

Photo courtesy of takorean.com

I have long known about TaKorean, which serves — you guessed it — tacos of the Korean variety. There are now several trucks that serve Korean tacos, many of whom I frequent because the TaKorean lines are way too long for me. But TaKorean was the pioneer in the DC area, and their long lines are a testament to their success and the success of Korean tacos in DC. They now have brick-and-mortar locations in DC so that you don’t need to chase down their trucks anymore. If you are a big fan of bulgogi and kimchi in your tacos in DC, you can thank TaKorean for paving the way.

Popular items include kimchi slawpork bo ssam, and bulgogi tacos

Website: takorean.com
Twitter: @TaKorean // Facebook: /TaKorean

Basil Thyme

Photo courtesy of foodtruckfiesta.com

One of DC’s most popular trucks is Italian regular Basil Thyme. They deliver fresh ingredients and delicious Italian food on wheels, and can you blame the people for being so happy and willing to eat it? It’s one of our most-reviewed food trucks on Yelp, where folks sing praises of the friendly staff — like former IT salesman and co-founder Brian — and delicious food that doesn’t make you feel guilty and full of regret when you’re finished. (Especially because entrees come with a side salad that let you feel a little healthier!)

Popular items include cannolieggplant lasagna, and traditional lasagna

Website: basilthyme.com
Twitter: @BasilThymeDC // Facebook: /BasilThyme

Red Hook Lobster Pound

Photo courtesy of redhooklobsterdc.com

One reason a lot of DCers are so grateful for food trucks? Because they can some New England classics like clam chowder and lobster roll. On wheels! (The fun of food trucks is that your food is on wheels.) While many of our food trucks have several competitors — Korean tacos, halal food, etc. — there aren’t that many people peddling lobster rolls on wheels! For a taste of New England in a town that is increasingly embracing Southern comfort food (nothing wrong with Southern comfort food!), it’s nice to be able to settle in with a taste of Maine.

Popular items include Connecticut style lobster roll, shrimp roll, and whoopie pies

Website: redhooklobsterdc.com
Twitter: @LobstertruckDC // Facebook: /RedHookLobsterPoundDC

PhoWheels

Photo courtesy of phowheelsdc.com

 

You know what used to cheer me up so much on bad days at work that were also dreary and rainy outside? Stepping outside the office and being able to pick up a steaming bowl of pho. PhoWheels is one of our best pho trucks in the area, and I’m so glad that trucks like them exist. Not only do they serve pho, they serve banh mi and banh mi-style tacos. (And you can get a poached egg for your pho or fried egg for your sandwich!) Also, people love the “chork” (chopsticks + fork) that they give you to eat your food with. Plus, they often partner with SnoCream Company, the snow cream bus. (AND THEY SELL MACARONS TELL YOUR FRIENDS.)

Popular items include pork belly tacoseye of round pho, and banh mi with fried egg

Website: phowheelsdc.com
Twitter: @PhoWheels // Facebook: /PhoWheels


We’ve got more food trucks than we really know what to do with in DC. In the summers, we have a monthly food truck festival called Truckeroo that is a great way to check out trucks that don’t stop by where you work! I love the food truck scene and love sharing my favorites with folks.

Do you like food trucks? What are your favorites?
Is there a food that you wish food trucks served near you? 
(I wish I could get real NY style pizza!)

 

Eat DC: President-Themed

DC is one of the top foodie cities in America, but that means that much of our food scene looks the same as others. It’s a culture driven by young professionals who love burgers, brunch, and happy hours. What sets DC apart?

Well, the president lives here. Every president before him has. DC is distinct because of it’s importance in American politics and, subsequently, in US history. In terms of our food scene, this culminates in president-themed restaurants and bars.

Nothing screams DC more than a trendy restaurant that is dedicated to a US president.

Lincoln

The iconic giant armchair/booth (Photo courtesy of lincolnrestaurant-dc.com)

 

With Lincoln, we reach the pinnacle of the DC food scene. Small plates? Check. Southern food? Check. Happy hour and brunch? Check. Trendy food items? Check. President-themed? HUGE CHECK. This is easily one of the coolest places I have ever seen and one of the most DC places I can think of. It is a really nice gastropub with an impressive menu of small plates and drinks. It is also the trendiest tribute to an American president I have ever seen. Copper pennies on the floor, mason jar lighting, cast-iron skillets for serving your food, bathrooms labeled “Abes” and “Marys”, etc. I just really love how into the theme this place is. I mean, PENNIES. Because Lincoln! The cocktail menu commits also, as I fully expect from any themed restaurant.

Popular items include braised short ribsmac and cheesepot pieMoscow Mule, and Lady Lincoln.

Come for happy hour, brunch, dinner, lunch, whatever. Come for the Lincoln-themed gastropub whenever you can!

1110 Vermont Ave. NW; (202) 386-9200; lincolnrestaurant-dc.com

Teddy and the Bully Bar

(Photo courtesy of teddyandthebullybar.com)

 

Actually owned by the same folks who own Lincoln, and actually, a pretty similar concept, as well. Lots of small plates and, guess what, they’re also into the farm-to-table goodness! The menu is meant to reflect Teddy Roosevelt’s love for comfort foods and game, since we all know he was an avid hunter. The vibe here is decidedly different from Lincoln. Where Lincoln is darker and cozier, Teddy and the Bully Bar is brighter and has more modern touches, like the mounted “animal heads” that are really 3D art.

Popular items include mac and cheesebrussel sproutsscallopsRio Roosevelt, and safari sangria

Come for happy hour, brunch, dinner, whatever

1200 19th St. NW; (202) 872-8200; teddyandthebullybar.com

The restaurateurs behind Lincoln and Teddy and the Bully Bar are actually coming out with another restaurant in the fall, so stay tuned for more from a spot called Declaration!

What I Packed: Florida 2015

I had a few guidelines in mind when it came to packing for Florida that made it different from packing for other trips I’ve taken:

  1. I was going to DisneyBound.
  2. I was going to be wearing summer clothes quite a bit earlier than I thought I would.
    (The average high in Fort Lauderdale for April is about 82°F/27.7°C.)
  3. I needed to bring some things for camping.
  4. Everything needed to fit in a backpack.

This was my first time booking with a budget airline rather than the one I frequently fly with, so fitting everything into a personal item is not something I’m used to. However, since it’s a short trip and warm-weather clothes don’t take up much room, this didn’t turn out to be too much of a problem. (We’ll see what I say as far as fitting souvenirs in on my return trip!)

Electronics

No real need to things like my laptop so we’re keeping things around primarily for documenting.

  • Phone + charger + portable power bank
  • Camera + extra battery + extra SD card + battery charger

One of my power banks also doubles as a flashlight, and I will be bringing a small keychain flashlight also.

Pirate cruise outfit

The theme of this cruise was pirates, but as I had inspired my friends to DisneyBound for this outing, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t draw some inspiration from Disney myself! I was originally going to do Captain Hook to match my friends’ Smee and Rufio, but checking the weather forecast in Fort Lauderdale told me that long black pants, long black boots, and a red blazer weren’t going to fly. So, I decided to finally do a Pirates of the Caribbean outfit, as I have long wanted a little cursed Aztec gold necklace of my own. I decided to channel Elizabeth’s look in the red/burgundy dress Barbossa gives her in the first film, so here is what I pulled together for a more casual, summery take:

  • Lace burgundy dress
  • Black corset
  • Cursed Aztec gold necklace
  • Black flats

The corset is a tricky item but the look isn’t quite complete without it. So I made sure to repurpose it later in the trip, as it takes up a finite amount of space; I can’t compress it in my suitcase because of the boning along the sides, and I couldn’t wear it down because it would set off metal detectors. (Also it’s not the comfiest accessory I own.)

Disney World outfit

 photo ariel_kissthegirl_3-1.jpg

I finally pulled together a blue dress Ariel outfit, after years of trying:

  • Pale blue T-shirt
  • Black corset
  • Blue skirt
  • Black flats
  • Blue hair bow

This feels like a lazy Disneybound, but I like that I’m able to repurpose the corset and finally attempt this look.

Other clothes

So I guess I can’t run around looking like Elizabeth Swann or Ariel all day during my trip, can I? (… or can I?) Also, it’ll probably be good for me to wear shorts at some point rather than be running around in a dress/skirt the whole trip. But I’m going to be rewearing some things because, you know what, it’s a vacation and I have limited space in my bag. If I could, I’d just wear the same thing the whole weekend through, if not for how smelly everything will be by then.

  • Swimsuit (bringing 2 bottoms because I don’t know how I feel about my newer one yet)
  • Denim shorts
  • Faux knee-high stockings (in case I am not comfortable baring my legs and it’s not too hot that I’m forced to)
  • Cardigan
  • Mickey Mouse T-shirt (as a cover-up/PJs/if I need another shirt)
  • Fleece-lined leggings (in case it gets cold when camping)
  • Scarf/cover-up
  • Wide-brimmed straw hat?
  • Underwear

IMG_1469

Toiletries

Keeping my toiletries TSA compliant comes pretty naturally to me, at this point. I am not terribly high maintenance (…right?) and having a lot of samples of items makes packing for trips a super breeze. Always keep your samples, folks! And any gifts with purchase! Those are so great when it comes to travel:

  • Toothbrush + toothpaste
  • Cleanser + moisturizer + konjac sponge (for face washing)
  • Facial sunscreen +
  • Shampoo + conditioner + sea salt spray (travel sizes courtesy of Influenster)
  • Shampoo + body wash

Items that I will need to buy when I land — due to them not being TSA-friendly — are:

  • Big bottle of sunscreen for body (minimum SPF 50, I don’t play games with my sun protection)
  • Insect repellent (I am a renowned mozzie magnet)

Everything else

This includes gear for camping (our friend, Tim, has graciously taken the burden of bringing almost all the camping stuff like tents and sleeping bags down himself), miscellaneous accessories, and other travel necessities I like to have:

  • Beach towels
  • Sunglasses
  • Hairbrush
  • Umbrella
  • First aid items (painkillers, bandaids)
  • Lady trouble items
  • Hand sanitizer

And of course, I’ll have things like my wallet, my keys, cash, lip balm, for carrying about on a regular basis in a clutch and a larger bag, probably a small backpack as I couldn’t find a good crossbody.

Onto the plane, I’ll be wearing the pirate cruise dress, safety shorts, scarf, leggings, and a hoodie so that I can stay warm on the plane and at night when camping if I need to.

Everything fits, and I have room for souvenirs! Let’s hope I can say the same coming back.

Off to Spring Break!

Surprise! This is the first year I’m doing a more conventional spring break in that I’m going to a warm location. Yelp is having their annual spring break in Fort Lauderdale this year, and while I was originally not that interested in going, that changed when my friends dangled Disney World in front of me.

WALT. DISNEY. WORLD.

I am leaving tonight and, as a result, will not have posts for BEDA while I am away. (Unless I prepared some in advance…?) BUT you will have some spring break recap posts to look forward to. (They’ll come before those Europe posts that I keep putting off…)

Even though it feels like an odd time to take a break like this, I think I need it. Like I said in an earlier post, it’s important to give myself things to work for. Also, something something fitness motivation something swimsuit body? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll exercise more before I have to hit the beach and maybe I won’t or maybe I won’t go the beach at all.

I haven’t been to Disney World since 2009 and my Disney obsession has since bloomed into something that makes me worry I will spend my day there just crying because feelz.

Let me know what is new or what are the must-see attractions at Disney, Fort Lauderdale, and Key West! I definitely want to know what are some must-eat treats while I’m down there!