30 Days of Nerdy Hair – Day 10

Day 10: Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) from Avengers: Age of Ultron

If you haven’t seen Avengers: Age of Ultron then you must be living in a dark cave somewhere, far away from civilization and a movie theater.  As of now, the movie has made over 1.3 billion dollars worldwide. So…yeah. It’s kind of a big deal. And if you’re looking for a favorite Avenger, allow me to present Black Widow! She is one seriously bad ass lady, especially since she has to deal with so many men. That a tough gig!

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Not to mention that Natasha’s hair manages to be ready for action and/ or a photo shoot at any given moment. If I had to kick bad guy’s butts on the regular, I promise you, my hair wouldn’t look this good all the time!

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Earth’s Mightiest Hair!!

#AvengerinTraining – Thor Week

Hitting a Wall

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

By week 4, I was tired. I just wanted to sleep. Scheduling was getting difficult. The nice promising Spring weather had turned cold and my motivation almost left me completely this week. Morning runs were hard to come by (because I don’t like running in cold weather.) So I had to find other ways to stay energized in the morning. One particularly lazy morning, I forced myself up and out of bed and I started making a list of reasons why I was doing this. Why did I want to train to be an Avenger? Why did I want to get healthy? Why had I given up my beloved mint chocolate chip ice cream? Was it really worth it?

After writing down 2 pages of reasons why I should continue on with this journey, I found out that I did believe it was worth it and I went out and ran, in the rain no less. It was never going to be easy to do this. And if you take that step towards a healthier life, it won’t be easy for you either. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Chris Hemsworth who has children and a wife and a job and a lot of things that demand his attention. And the world will be against you. I pass by 3 Dunkin Donuts on my commute to work every morning. Giving me not 1, but 3 opportunities to cheat. But this week, despite hitting a wall… I refused to. Something about reaching a limitation really made me want to kick it down and press through. It won’t always be this way. But it was this week!!

Week 4: Thor Week

Watercolor Art by Blule
Watercolor Art by Blule

Thor Odinson, god of thunder, ruler of Asgard, wielder of Mjolnir. Thor was born into a privileged life. He was raised to be a king of Asgard, along with his adopted brother Loki. Stripped of his powers, he was sent to Earth by his father, Odin, to learn the true meaning of kingly responsibility. Upon his return he was welcomed back and was shown to be a worthy prince of Asgard. When Earth was once again threatened by his brother, Loki, Thor joined up with the team known as The Avengers to fight the threat to Earth, home of his beloved Jane.

Chris Hemsworth plays the mighty god of thunder. To prepare for the role, Hemsworth started training with former Navy seal, Duffy Gaver. Gaver applied an “old school bodybuilding approach” to train Hemsworth. Take a look at the full article and  workout over at MuscleandFitness.com

Inspiration

Movies

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Avengers and Age of Ultron, are on the list as usual. Adding in Thor and Thor: The Dark World for all kinds of Asgardian goodness!  Thor is a great figure of mythology so I added Clash of the Titans to the list because it’s all about the gods and demigods of Greek mythology, to keep with that mysthological theme. And for good measure I added in Star Trek, the JJ Abrams reboot, which stars none other than Chris Hemsworth himself, as James T. Kirk’s ill-fated father.

Music

The music used in Thor and Thor: The Dark World have that heavy epic feeling to them, so I also added a lot of Star Wars music and other epic movie themes. Along with Carmina Burana. Anything that makes you feel like you are in a sweeping epic. This music definitely made me run with purpose!

Meals

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I crafted my meal plan based on what Chris Hemsworth ate during training. Take a look at HealthyCeleb.com

Weekly Workout Challenge

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Day 1: 5 Kettlebell Swings/ 5 Pushups

Day 2: 8 Kettlebell Swings/ 8 Pushups

Day 3: 11 Kettlebell Swings/ 11 Pushups

Day 4: 14 Kettlebell Swings/ 14 Pushups

Day 5: Rest Day

Day 6: 17 Kettlebell Swings/ 17 Pushups

Day 7: 20 Kettlebell Swings/ 20 Pushups

By now you should have layered on the final day’s workout from Iron Man Week, Hulk Week and Black Widow Week. Take the last day of Thor week with you into Hawkeye week. It should look like this:

-2 sets of Full Front Planks (60 second hold, rest in between)

-Chest Flys, Dumbbell Chest Presses, Standing Shoulder Presses, Arm Curls (25 reps)

-40 Squats (2 reps)

-20 Kettlebell Swings/ 20 Pushups

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Extra Credit

Kettlebell Kickboxing

Photo from Kettlebell Kickboxing

I chose kettlebell class because I thought the kettlebell could stand in for Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. At Kettlebell Kickboxing they teach you a lot of different ways to utilize the kettlebell. They also incorporate some kickboxing and cardio into the routine as well. It made for a really great full-body workout! I brought a friend with me to this class and we were both smiling and sweating by the end. Intro class to Kettlebell Kickboxing is $20. A great class!!

Diesel Class @ Crunch Gym

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Photo from Crunch Gym

If there is one member of The Avengers who could be described as “diesel” it would be Chris Hemsworth’s Thor. So I decided to take Diesel Class at Crunch Gym for Thor Week. I didn’t quite know what I was getting into. It was an intense 60 minutes of weights, cardio and floor work. Cruch offers a free trial at their gym where you can take advantage of their gym equipment and/ or their classes. I’m a classes person myself and I really loved the group energy in this class as well as the unbridled enthusiasm of the instructor!! If you are a Crunch member or thinking of joining, definitely give this class a try!

Other options for Thor Week:

Weight Lifting

Other Kettlebell Classes

Helpful Tips

Here’s a list of tips that really helped me through this fitness plan. They are nothing new. They are nothing you couldn’t easily find online or in Shape magazine. But they are things that really worked for me and I hope will work for you, if you need that extra bit of motivation!

-Be honest with yourself – Try using a food tracker, I like My Fitness Pal. And make sure to be accurate in honest in your tracking. Lying only hinders your own progress. And unless you allow someone to be your accountability, you will be the only to know if you are creating a faithful accounting of your eating habits. But I truly believe that if you start being honest, even if it means tracking the 2 bowls of mint chocolate chips ice cream you ate one night, that you will start to change your habits because you want to see healthier stats. And because it will start to feel so good to make better choices. It did for me

-Stick to serving sizes – For dry goods and things that can be broken into portions, I tried to split up the portions way before meal time came around. For example, as soon as I got home from the grocery store I divided up the whole wheat pasta into ziploc bags with the correct portion size in each bag. Same with things like grapes or chips. Anything that would be easy to overeat in one sitting. That way when the time comes to eat the food you want, you can judge it based on an accurate portion and log it into your food tracker correctly. It’s ok if you need more that 1 portion of the food. But that’s where the honesty comes in.

-Shop the outer rim – When you go to the grocery store, try to stick to the fresh foods. Dairy, fruit, veggies, meat, eggs, etc. These can be found along the outer circle of more super markets. The aisles generally hold dry, preserved goods. Some of which you might need. But to eat cleaner, greener, healthier meals, the best things are the ones that might not survive a nuclear apocalypse (I’m looking at you Twinkie!)

-Keep what you like, ditch the rest – There’s nothing worse than a fitness plan that feels like it was meant for someone else. That’s why I want you to be able to take what you like from it. Sure, working out everyday, never losing focus and living only off the land is probably the healthiest way to live. But it’s not practical. I’m a firm believer that some effort is better than no effort. So even if you just do a weekly challenge or hit one class a week, it’s better than nothing. I went on Pinterest and just made a whole board of things that inspired me (after all, that’s what Pinterest is for!) This allowed me to visualize and then I went ahead and took the things I liked and ditched all the rest. Enjoyment is really half the battle!!

Stay tuned for the following Avengers: Hawkeye and Captain America. Check out Iron Man week,  Hulk week and Black Widow Week in case you missed them.

And make sure to comment below with any questions, comments, etc! And let me know if you are trying any of these. I would love to hear from you!!

#AvengerinTraining – Hulk Week

Hitting Stride

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

In Week 2 I really felt like I was in the zone. My morning runs were really strong. And coming out of Iron Man week I was ready for the next challenges. The foods I ate during Iron Man week really helped me reboot my eating habits and eat clean and healthier meals! Heading into week 2 it was time to up the ante. Check out the plan for Hulk Week below:

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Week 2: Hulk Week

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Artwork by Blule

The next Avenger to be introduced to the franchise was, The Hulk. After an accident in the lab and exposure to toxic amounts of Gamma radiation, mild-mannered scientist, Bruce Banner, was transformed into the green behemoth known as The Hulk. When angered Bruce goes green and starts smashing.

Originally played by Edward Norton, the role of the Hulk was recast for The Avengers. Mark Ruffalo took over the role. Obviously the muscle mass that The Hulk has onscreen is a creation of the magicians of the CGI department at Marvel. Ruffalo himself did do some training for the role, but maintained a scientists’ physique. He also reportedly gave up meat and dairy to prepare for the role of The Hulk. Read Mark’s interview with Paste Magazine here. And check out The Incredible Hulk fitness plan from MensFitness.com which is where I got some inspiration for this week’s plan.

Movies

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Again, Avengers and Age of Ultron are on the list for the obvious reasons. I also watched The Incredible Hulk for inspiration, which is the least successful movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I actually really like it. And I think Norton makes an excellent Hulk! (I tried to watch Ang Lee’s ‘Hulk’… but that was a mistake. It’s a really terrible movie.) Besides the Avengers, there’s another group of super beings that might be able to relate to Hulk’s mutation…the X-Men. X-Men 1 and 2 are both great films and keep with the theme of being a little different than the average human. And then I added Fight Club to the list for good measure because 1: it has Edward Norton so…there’s that. and 2: it’s just a really phenomenal movie.

Music

This list is comprised of music from The Incredible Hulk and The Avengers as well as music that reminded me of the Hulk. Anything to get me in the mindset while pumping iron every morning. Hope you pump up the jam with this playlist!

Meals

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For Hulk week’s meal planning, I took a lot of suggestions from The Incredible Hulk fitness plan from MuscleandFitness.com and just tweaked it by removing dairy and meat from the list. A lot of greens (obviously) but mixed with some of the leftover items from Iron Man week, it made for a great week of eating!

Weekly Workout Challenge

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Day 1: Dumbbell Chest Presses and Flys (2 sets of 15)

Day 2: Dumbbell Chest Presses and Flys (2 sets of 25)

Day 3: Rest Day

Day 4: Standing Shoulder Presses and Arm Curls (2 sets of 15)

Day 5: Standing Shoulder Presses and Arm Curls (2 sets of 25)

Day 6: Chest Flys, Dumbbell Chest Presses, Standing Shoulder Presses, Arm Curls (15 reps)

Day 7: Chest Flys, Dumbbell Chest Presses, Standing Shoulder Presses, Arm Curls (25 reps)

Remember to add in Day 7 (2 sets of Full Front Planks (60 second hold, rest in between)) from Iron Man week before each day’s challenge in Hulk Week. We are building up to a full body workout by the time we hit the end of the 6 weeks.

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Extra Credit

Here are the extra classes I took for Hulk Week to keep thinking Hulk-y thoughts:

Cycling @ Monster Cycle

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Photo from Monster Cycle

This is a relatively new cycling studio in Manhattan. Right off the bat I was told that this was different than any cycling class I had previously took, but most specifically from Soul Cycle (which I told them I was used to doing.) Monster has great music, good energy and no tap backs. I have to be honest and tell you that Soul Cycle is my jam. But Monster was definitely my jelly!! I really enjoyed this class. And their first time rate is only $13, while their single class rate is $33. Definitely a class worth trying!

Yoga @ LuluLemon

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Photo from LuluLemon

I chose to do yoga for Hulk week because keeping the heart rate in check is one of the ways that Edward Norton’s Banner keeps from transforming into The Hulk. Every Sunday at stores around the country, Lululemon closes down it’s shop and makes room for the yoga mats. They offer free yoga in their stores and even provide mats if you need one. It’s a wonderful, free weekly workout and they feature different instructors from local yoga studios each week. So you can get a sneak preview of different studios in case you are looking for more than just once a week. The instructor I took from during Hulk week came from Jivamukti Yoga and it was a really amazing practice! I have never been able to do a full bridge, and the instructor really pulled me out of my comfort zone…literally!!

Stay tuned for the following Avengers: Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye and Captain America. And check out Iron Man week if you missed it.

Make sure to comment below with any questions, comments, etc! And let me know if you join my Avenger in training revolution. It is really transforming me and I hope it can do the same for you!

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

#AvengerinTraining – Iron Man Week

Introduction

I would consider myself a fairly fit person. I enjoy running and Soul Cycle and walking and when I’m vigilant, I eat marginally well. But then came the winter and I was discontent. Chilly weather caused my motivation to disappear. The running stopped. The Soul Cycle stopped. I still tried to walk and get at least my 10,000 steps a day. But I counteracted that by overeating fatty ‘comfort’ foods.

One day, I realized I had gained 20 pounds that I did not want on me (it may not sound like a lot of weight, but it sure felt like it.) Somehow I’d let the weight sneak up on me. And that wasn’t ok with me!! My sugar intake was at an all time high, due to eating a lot of macaroni and cheese and mint chocolate chip ice cream (my favorite comfort food!) And I am genetically at risk for diabetes, but I just didn’t seem to care. This was the heaviest I’d been in quite a while. All the previous progress I’d made in the fall was being wasted thanks to laziness and a complete lack of discipline.

One night, while watching Avengers (for the 19th time), I realized that if aliens did invade Earth or the zombie apocalypse finally happened or some other menacing force became reality, I’d be one of the first to go. And as I watched Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow kick serious ass on screen, I knew…that wasn’t gonna work for me!

So I embarked on a journey that would eventually become a transforming experience.

A lot of what I’ll share is not ground breaking. It’s not even new information. It’s constantly posted and reposted in many forms. You just have to tailor it to you. That’s what I did. I made something that would be fun, inspiring and made just for me!

Now, I prefer fantasy to reality sometimes…it’s true. But I know I’ll probably never be called on to fight for my life or to save another person’s. But if I ever was called upon, I wanted to be ready.

I delved into each of the 6 characters that make up the team known as The Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye and Captain America. I researched what each individual actor did to prepare for their roles, then I went about crafting a 6 week fitness plan that I thought would be fun and that I knew I could accomplish. Most of the workouts I found online that were based on the Avengers, were mainly geared towards men. The meal plans too. I’m not about to start eating 2300 calories a day. That just wouldn’t work for me. This plan is meant to be tailored to individuals, men or women. If you like it, keep it in the plan. If you don’t, take it out. (Keep in mind I am not a fitness or medical professional. Just a nerdy fangirl who wanted to make a change.)

I do not have the money or the time to dedicate to actually looking like an Avenger. (and I am not being paid by Marvel to do this either.) But I knew that I wanted to do more than I was at the time and I decided to use the inspiration I felt while watching the Avengers to help transform my lazy habits into constructive discipline.

Below is the complete breakdown of Week 1, including the things I turned to for inspiration, the weekly challenges I made for myself, my food shopping list, and the amazing classes I took all in my endeavor to get healthy and become an #AvengerinTraining

Photo by Cristina Fowler
Photo by Cristina Fowler

Week 1: Iron Man Week

Watercolor Art by Blule
Watercolor Art by Blule

The first Avenger on my the list was Iron Man. I decided to go in order of their introduction to the franchise. And who better to start it off, than the Iron Avenger himself. Robert Downey Jr., at 50 years old, is in the best shape of his life. Physically and in his career (as of 2014, RDJ tops Forbes’ list of highest paid actors in Hollywood). His onscreen alter-ego is Tony Stark who, after getting kidnapped by terrorists, witnesses the damage of what has become a destructive legacy at Stark Industries. While incarcerated in an Afghanistan prison, Tony discovers himself to be more than just the “genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist” that he always had been and starts down the road to becoming so much more.

To prepare for the role of Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr, “started training using the Wing Chun technique, made famous by Bruce Lee.” (MensFitness.com) He also cut way back on the cardio in favor of increased weight training. By the time filming for Iron Man began, RDJ had backed on 25 extra pounds of muscle. Check out his full training regiment over at MensFitness.com

Inspiration

Sometimes the hardest part is taking that initial first step out the door. Being inspired is a fleeting experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Movies and music are two of my favorite things to partake in. So while preparing to take on this 6 week challenge, I thought a lot about what would keep me moving towards my goals.

Movies

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Obviously, Avengers and Age of Ultron are on the movie list for each of the Avengers as they serve as inspiration for all 6 characters. For Iron Man Week, if I needed a little extra oomph of energy or motivation I watched some or all of the above movies. Iron Man and Iron Man 3 are also obvious choices. Spiderman may seem like an unlikely choice (Peter is a poor college kid, Tony is a wealthy man), but I think there are a lot of themes that overlap between Iron Man and Spiderman. And Casino Royale has billionaire, playboy written all over it. Plus I LOVE James Bond!!

Music

This list is comprised of music from Iron Man and music that makes me think of Iron Man. Anything to get me in the mindset while on a run in the morning. Hope it pushes you like it pushed me!

Meals

I created a meal plan (you won’t hear the word diet in this blog series, I don’t believe in them) based on the foods that Robert Downey Jr ate while training. Again, I’m not being paid by Marvel and I don’t have unlimited time on my hands. So I had the master list of items that I used to stock my refrigerator and pantry and then I made meals out of them that I knew I would enjoy and would be easy to make on a daily basis. I did a lot more cooking this week than I had been doing and I liked it!!

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Weekly Workout Challenge

For Iron Man week I chose a plank challenge. Here’s the daily breakdown:

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Day 1: 2 sets of Kneeling Side Planks (60 hold second, rest in between)

Day 2: 2 sets of Kneeling Side Planks (60 second hold, rest in between)

Day 3: 3 sets of Incline Side Planks (30 second hold, rest in between)

Day 4: 2 sets of Front Elbow Planks (30 second hold, rest in between)

Day 5: 3 sets of Front Elbow Planks (30 second hold, rest in between)

Day 6: 2 sets of Full Front Planks (30 second hold, rest in between)

Day 7: 2 sets of Full Front Planks (60 second hold, rest in between)

When Iron Man week ended, I took the last day’s challenge activity and rolled it over into the next Avenger’s weekly workout schedule. So Day 7 of the above plan will be used for the rest of the 5 weeks of training.

Extra Credit

If you were to call me an overachiever, you might be right. Especially when it comes to doing things I love and enjoy. I’ll go the extra mile and I’ll run the whole way there. So when I came up with this idea for my time as an #AvengerinTraining I chose a couple different workout classes and gyms for each week that I thought might represent the Avenger of that particular week. For Iron Man week I did:

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu @ Lifestyle MMA Academy

Photo from Lifestyle MMA Academy
Photo from Lifestyle MMA Academy

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not for the faint of heart or the shy wallflower. If you are squeamish about being up close and personal with complete strangers… this isn’t for you. If you find the prospect of hand to hand combat daunting… turn the other way. But if you want to be pulled out of your comfort zone and challenged beyond what you think you can do… find the closest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu studio and give it a try. Channel your inner Iron Man. And if you live in the New York City area, head to Lifestyle MMA Academy in Astoria. They will kick your butt. They sure kicked mine and, bonus, the first trial class is free. So you have no excuses!!

Power Pilates @ The Art of Fitness

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I’ve done pilates before, it’s one of my favorite ways to workout, but Power Pilates at The Art of Fitness will take your practice to a whole new level. And at just $10 a class, it’s a really great deal for a whole lot of workout!

Other options for Iron Man Week:

Rock Climbing

MMA

Stay tuned for the following Avengers: Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye and Captain America

And make sure to comment below with any questions, comments, etc!

Avengers: Age of Ultron

In a word: AWESOME!!!

(No spoilers, I promise!!)

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If you aren’t planning on heading to the theaters this weekend to see Avengers: Age of Ultron… you’ve made a mistake. Or you’re finally watching Daredevil on Netflix and have taken to the reclusive life for the weekend. When you emerge from your binge watching, head to the theaters and back into the darkness and watch this movie!

Here’s all the reasons to watch it:

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The Scene Stealer
Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlett Witch, one half of the Maximoff twins, completely steals some big moments in the movie. Her powers are epic. Her acting is perfect. Her introduction as an Avenger… well I already said perfect, but I’ll say it again!!! PERFECT. Marvel’s casting department definitely knows what it’s doing!

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The Payoff

To anyone still smarting from the lack of Hawkeye action in Avengers, this is our boy’s moment to shine!! And shine he does. Jeremy Renner takes every moment to shine! And we get some rather unexpected twists where his character is concerned. Good ole Clint Barton really is a standout among the gods and demigods that make up the team of Avengers.

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The Favorite

And by favorite, I mean my favorite. Cap has always be my guy!! He’s the eternal boy scout (something they take time to poke fun at a little bit in the film.) Because Captain America has 2 solo movies under his belt, we don’t need character development or back story here. We just need Cap to be Cap. And as always, Chris Evans brings the heat. You can also see the threads they are setting up for the Civil War story line in his scenes with Robert Downey, Jr. The bromance is still alive and well, but there might be a little trouble in paradise.

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The Villain

It’s no surprise to anyone that James Spader (excellent actor that he is) took the role of Ultron to the next level. This is no mindless robot bent on torture and mayhem. Ultron is an intelligent entity of Tony Stark’s own creation. Granted, his creation takes a turn for the dark side. But even in his darkness, James Spader manages to keep that Stark humor alive in his voice work.

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The Vision

The duality of good and evil is explored throughout the whole movie in a wonderful way. A discussion about how humanity is bent on preventing bad things and in doing so eventually end up creating bad things in the process some times. This is brought to life in the form of Ultron’s antithesis, The Vision. Paul Bettany’s Jarvis finally gets a face… sort of. The Vision is meant to be an instrument of destruction for Ultron’s evil plan, but ends up… well, no spoilers!

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Lady Love

Black Widow (as bad ass as she’s ever been) gets to explore a different side to her character that we haven’t really seen yet. (Although one might think that if she had a stand alone movie, we might have the chance to see all of her different sides!) I think that this will be one that people are a little divided about, but I really loved it! I love a softer Natasha Romanoff. And it doesn’t effect her ability to kick villainous butt in the least. As if anyone believed for a second that it would!

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The Classic

What needs to be said about RDJ’s Iron Man that hasn’t already been said a million times. There’s a reason Marvel started the entirety of their world building, mega franchise, phasing plan with him. He’s irreverent and funny. He’s a leader, but he makes mistakes. He’s relatable and untouchable all at the same time. Again, Joss and company really took some time to give beats to each character. Play on their fears and their pasts. And like basically everything else in this movie, it works!!

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The New Kid

Quicksilver, aka Pietro Romanoff, aka brother of Scarlett Witch. He’s a great character, but really loses some ground in the presence of his overpowering sister, Wanda. I will say that he does have some good moments. But he’s not as strong as he could have been. And not quite as funny as Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past played by Evan Peters. My favorite part about him was his relationship to his sister. He’s the older twin (by a whole 12 minutes) and it’s sweet to see how he takes that to heart. He is a protective older brother who…NO SPOILERS.

Ok, this is getting tough. The more I talk about it the more I want to tell you everything!!!!

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The Hulk

I love Hulk. And Mark Ruffalo really gets to explore a little of the mental torture that comes with being a mean, green fighting machine. Plus he gets to explore a softer side of himself as well.

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The god

And Thor is Thor! God among men. Son of Odin. Ruler of Aasgard. Wielder of Mjolnir. Boyfriend of Jane. You get it. He rocks!

Yeah, I’m gonna stop before I give all the major plot points and twists away and you get mad at me! Go see and then we can talk. 🙂

Come join me tonight at 9pm EST for my #NerdySlumberParty to talk more about Marvel’s many projects including Avengers: Age of Ultron!

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