Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. at Discovery Times Square

Photos by Liz Phillips
Note: There are spoilers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier within this article.

For New York City-bound Avengers fans looking to bridge the Marvel Cinematic Universe gap between April’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier and August’s Guardians of the Galaxy, they needn’t look any further than Discovery Times Square’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. Located in the heart of midtown, the exhibit replicates an actual SHIELD base with state of the art interactive exhibits and Marvel artifacts. We got the chance to tour this unique experience during its preview period in late May and were glad to return last week to see its completion and test whether we were worthy of our newly-issued SHIELD ID cards.

Upon entry into the exhibit, “probationary” level agents are scanned and welcomed with an official message from none other than Agent Felix Blake (Titus Welliver). After Blake’s message, the entry room gives way into the further secret headquarters of S.H.I.E.L.D. It should be noted for anyone reading this in confusion in light of what occurred in The Winter Soldier that this exhibit hails directly from Phase 1 in the MCU timeline, right after the events of the Avengers. Though it begs the question: How awesome would a HYDRA station be? Bring on the digitized Dr. Zola and his databanks brain, Marvel! But I digress.

After briefing, each Avenger gets highlighted starting with beautiful costume displays of the SHIELD agents Black Widow and Hawkeye (even if the mannequin’s arms don’t hold a candle to Mr. Renner’s). Beside them are the suits of SHIELD higher-ups Agent Phil Coulson and Director Nick Fury. Like most all of the props on view throughout the exhibit, the costumes are accompanied by touch screens giving in-depth info on the items on display. Other noteable props we encountered on our tour included Loki’s infamous helmet and scepter, the Tesseract portal device and of course, Captain America’s iconic shield.

What makes this exhibit special however, beyond its wealth of actual props and costumes, is that ID everyone was issued. As the station’s staff move recruits from the designated rooms of Captain America, The Hulk, Thor and Iron Man, would-be agents can scan into interactive exercises that test their skills versus the Avengers. Spoiler alert: None of us are stronger than Steve Rogers. It also allows users to share some of their results with Facebook if they chose to connect with the social network upon registering their ID.

Unsurprisingly, the most interactive room is that of Tony Stark himself where visitors can watch themselves get suited up on screen and maneuver Iron Man in his virtual garage or operate an actual robotic arm.*

The largest space belongs to Thor, whose costume from the first film is cleverly displayed as a gift from Asgard to Midgard. Beside it, S.T.A.T.I.O.N. boasts apparently the largest holographic projection in North America, that of Thor’s legendary hammer, Mjolnir. Across from these artifacts, agents can virtually manuever through stars in a program the center developed in collaboration with NASA. Jane Foster would be proud.

Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.  at Discovery Times Square is now open and you can find ticketing information on their official website

(Special thanks to Heather for being our model agent!)

*Our team discovered an amusing Easter egg in regards to this arm, clearly the exhibitors know their NYC audience! Head on over to our TUMBLR page to enjoy our short video as well as additional photos from the exhibit.

Titus Welliver Talks About “Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.”

 Titus Welliver first joined the Marvel universe in the short one-shot, “Item 47”. Taking place in the aftermath of the Battle of New York in 2012’s The Avengers, Welliver played SHIELD Agent Blake. The short saw Blake sending Agent Sitwell (later of “Hail HYDRA” fame, boooo, hiss!) to recover a lost Chitauri weapon from a pair of common criminals on a bank robbing spree. There it was implied he was previously the superior agent to Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson. No surprise then, with Coulson’s resurrection, Blake too cropped up on ABC’s Agents of SHIELD.

Now that SHIELD has a temporary NYC home at Discovery Times Square’s Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. with Agent Blake inducting new agents on a daily basis, Welliver dropped by for a tour with his family last week. He gamely tried out several of the interactive exhibits and visited with some important Marvel props (including Item 47 itself). I was happy to get to tagalong with them, along with the exhibit’s executive director, Mark Smith. Both men were extremely knowledgable on their Marvel comics and it was a pleasure to see the exhibit in the company of these enthusiastic fans.

Lauren Damon: When you did Item 47, did you know Agents of the SHIELD could be happening?
Titus Welliver: No, Agents of SHIELD was probably in the works at that time, I didn’t know that they were going to do an Agents of SHIELD show. So when I did Item 47, it was just–I flipped out. I was so excited to do it. Because Blake and in that he’s kind of a Walter Mitty character, you can kind of tell he’s just champing at the bit to get out in the field and do something.

LD: Agent Blake’s background is having been a superior officer to Agent Coulson, did you and Clark Gregg have any discussion on their roles before the Avengers?
TW: No, I mean we didn’t. Clark was my roommate in college, so we’ve known each other for a really long time so he sort of hinted after I did Item 47 that there was stuff coming down the pipe. So when we actually got to work together it was pretty funny for us because we were such total goofoffs in college and now we’re like these Agents of SHIELD being all serious standing on the helicarrier so it’s really fun.

LD: Your SHIELD episodes aired prior to The Winter Soldier premiering, after those events, where does that put Agent Blake?
TW: Well they’ve got to reconstruct SHIELD now from the ground up now that’s it’s been so heavily compromised and destroyed. So it will be interesting to see how they resurrect SHIELD within–and as you saw on the show, it ended on a pretty bleak note. So…those writers are so good. They’ll find a way to bring it back up and I’m just happy for the show because I think it’s a smart show. I don’t think we’ve had anything like that you know, maybe The X-Files sort of the closest comparison I could come up with. And that was a phenomenal show. But with the science and the whole
Marvel universe, because everything is so interconnected, the places they can go are kind of endless.

LD: Finally, who is your favorite Avenger?
TW: My favorite Avenger? Captain America.
LD: Alright!
TW: I mean…ahhh that’s hard! I mean, I like them all. But yeah, I’m a huge Captain America fan from way back and I have probably about eighty-five percent of the original Captain America comics. So yeah, I’m a big geek.

Fittingly, in Captain America’s space at the Discovery Center, I asked Mark Smith how they went about choosing which of Captain Rogers’s props would be placed within the exhibit:

Mark Smith: It’s based on the storyline really. So with Captain America, the rebirth pod was a big part of that. The initiation of the super soldier program itself so we wanted to make sure we had real props and costumes and pieces from the movie to be able to then blend into the storyline about how Captain America is the super soldier.

Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. is now open at 44th street in New York’s Times Square, you can read more about visiting the center at its official website . In the meantime, Titus Welliver can currently be seen in “Transformers: Age of Extinction”.

Blu-ray Review “Fruitvale Station”

Actors: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Durand, Melonie Diaz, Chad Michael Murray
Director by: Ryan Coogler
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: ANCHOR BAY
DVD Release Date: January 14, 2014
Run Time: 85 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

When it comes to dramas, I am usually not the first to run out. When I was young, I used to attend all the indie NYC film festivals and I got a bit flooded with all sorts of dramatic features. So “Fruitvale Station” didn’t interest me at all upon first glance. When I got this Blu-ray, I figured I would give it a chance it has a fantastic cast including Michael B. Jordan (“Chronicle”) and Academy Award® winner Octavia Spencer (“The Help”). Well I am glad I did because, I was quickly sucked into this very emotional drama and these actors mesmerizing performances. Keep an eye out for Jordan cause he is going to be huge. Highly recommend this film but just remember it is not light watching and very powerful 85 minutes.

Official Premise: Filmmaker Ryan Coogler makes his feature directorial debut with this drama centered on the tragic shooting of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a vibrant 22-year-old Bay Area father who was senselessly gunned down by BART officers on New Year’s Day in 2009, and whose murder sent shockwaves through the nation after being captured on camera by his fellow passengers.

“Fruitvale Station” is a low-budget film with a low-budget feel that is not necessarily a bad thing but on Blu-ray, it doesn’t really stand out for me as a must have. The 1080p transfer is still very sharp and crystal clear. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track works very well with the film’s powerful score, which I loved. Anchor Bay released this film as a Blu-ray combo pack with DVD included, as well as a Digital HD Ultraviolet copy. In terms of special features, we only get two extras here but they are decent. “Fruitvale Station: The Story of Oscar Grant” goes into the true story behind this tragic event. There is also included a Q & A with the Cast and Filmmakers talking about the film and the true story behind it as well.

Film Review “Fruitvale Station”

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Rated: R
Running Time: 85 minutes
The Weinstein Company

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

For those like me that don’t have a constant mental database of all news, you may need a refresher before heading into “Fruitvale Station”. The movie is about an unarmed young adult who was shot on the early morning hours of New Year’s Day back in 2009 by the Bay Area Rapid Transit System. What makes this story unique is it was the first time nationally that I can recall where what transpired was caught on tape by many onlookers who had whipped out their cellphones. “Fruitvale Station” shows us it’s an event we shouldn’t forget.

Oscar Grant III (Jordan) is trying to change things around in a big way. Before the beginning of the New Year, we learn that Oscar is unfaithful with his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz), sells drugs, has almost been disowned by his mother Wanda Grant (Octavia Spencer) and finds himself lying to his daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal) to explain his jail time. Under the tattoos and gangster rap music blasting from his car, we see that he’s a good natured person. He’s kind hearted and truly hates the person he’s become. The movie shows us that he’s chosen his mother’s birthday to begin the process of changing his life around. Not everything goes smoothly, but even under the stress of everything not going his way, he still manages to remain positive.

If Jordan hasn’t been on anyone’s radar, he is now after this performance. It’s only been two years since “The Help”, but I’m sure Octavia Spencer will once again creating some Oscar buzz and adding a few more awards to her mantle. The dialogue, by first time writer and director Ryan Coogler, is crisp, genuine and honest. As director, he’s able to help the audience visualize the struggles of Oscar. Don’t be surprised if he needs to start working on a place to house his future awards. The most emotional scenes don’t feel forced and the events of unfold fluidly. Because this movie begins with the cellphone footage from that night, reminding us of what will happen. We’re never comfortable or calm as we watch Oscar pick up the pieces. There’s a slow building dread like a snake uncoiling before it strikes.

Coogler accomplishes the rare feat of letting us know what’s going to happen, but still packs a punch by the time the third act begins. So even though we know what’s going to happen, he still manages to piece together an engaging flick. We watch Oscar’s transformation and by the time the third act begins. We don’t want it to happen. We don’t want to see it again. We wish there was a different outcome. But there isn’t. The final minutes of the movie grip you and leave you speechless. The visual force of those lingering moments knocks the breath out of you.

You could easily walk out of this movie and say that it was created and pushed forth in-light of the Trayvon Martin case. I’d like to believe Coogler had more than agenda when sitting down to flesh out this retelling. It’s easy to create the parallels of good and evil, but I felt there was a more human message under all this. There’s a reason we spend so much time with Oscar, watching him interact and try to become a better person. If we are to learn anything from Oscar’s tale, it’s that your life can end at any moment, but most importantly, you should not take the time you’re given lightly. There’s always time to set things right.

Blu-ray Review “The Numbers Station”

Actors: John Cusack, Malin Akerman, Liam Cunningham, Lucy Griffiths
Directors: Kasper Barfoed
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Run Time: 89 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

When it comes to John Cusack, I am not sure what it is but I am always down for this films. Same goes for Malin Akerman, who is great in “Childrens Hospital” as well as “Rock of Ages”.  Both of them are great in this film. The story is well done and packs some nice suspense.  If you haven’t heard of this film that ok since it was initially available through iTunes and only received a limited U.S. theatrical release in April 2013. I feel that these two actors should have been given more of a push for mainstream, since it should have had a decent sized audience.  If you are looking for a decent thriller with good action then I would check this out, especially for John Cusack fans!

Official Premise: After his latest mission goes disastrously wrong, veteran CIA black ops agent Emerson Kent (John Cusack) is given one last chance to prove he still has what it takes to do his job. His new assignment: guarding Katherine (Malin Akerman), a code operator at a top-secret remote CIA “Numbers Station” where encrypted messages are sent and received. When an elite team of heavily armed assailants lays siege to the station, Emerson and Katherine suddenly find themselves in a life-or-death struggle against an unknown enemy. With the station compromised and innocent lives at stake, they must stop the deadly plot before it’s too late.

The 1080p is very impressive as well.  I thought the film was well shot and looks awesome on Blu-ray. I have to admit the DTS-HD MA 5.1 is quite amazing. It is kick-ass and in your face. The action is sharp and the dialogue is clear. The score is also fantastic courtsey of Paul Leonard-Morgan (“Dredd”). The special features are not the greatest and there is only one extra but it does the trick. “The Making of The Numbers Station” is a 15 minute behind-the-scenes look at the film with interviews from John Cusack and Malin Ackerman. If you liked the film than this EPK is well worth watching.

Concert Review “Shadows Fall, Station 58, Syracuse, NY”

Shadows Fall, Maps of War, Spire, All That Is Sacred, One Step From Falling
Date: Friday, February 17th 2012
Venue: Station 58, Syracuse, NY

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Shadows Fall came to the intimate Station 58 venue in Syracuse, NY on February 17th and performed to a near capacity crowd. The band came through the city as part of a 5 date tour that is in preparation for their appearance at this year’s Sound Waves festival held in Australia.

One Step From Falling started the night off playing an interesting blend of experimental rock that reminded me of early System of a Down however with less substance. All That Is Scared took the stage next as the club began to slowly fill and though the bands set was brief each member appeared to put their best foot forward. Local favorite Spire was up next and received a very warm welcome from the crowd. The band played a technical blend of prog metal that received a great response from the crowd that helped set the stage for the rest of the evening. Maps of War followed playing to a packed house. The band was very technical and provided an intense in your face performance.

Shadows Fall would close out the night and though the band had not performed since the summer of last year it did not show. Lead vocalist Brian Fair with his signature dreadlocks had the crowd in a sweat filled mosh from the word go. Fair took several trips into the crowd which seemed to only fuel the crowd that much more. Guitarists Jon Donais and Matt Bachand laid down their signature riffage while drummer Jason Bittner and Bassist Paul Romanko filled in the band’s sound with thunderous bass runs and beats. The band played a variety of tracks from their 6 album catalog as well as the track “Fire From the Sky” which will be on the bands upcoming album due in May of this year. Shadows Fall along with all the other bands on the bill really delivered by putting on a great show for the Syracuse crowd.

Shadows Fall Set List:
1.)    My Demise
2.)    Thoughts Without Words
3.)    Enlightened By The Cold
4.)    Burning The Lives
5.)    Stepping Outside The Circle
6.)    Still I Rise
7.)    Fire From The Sky
8.)    The Power of I and I
9.)    King of Nothing
10.) What Drives The Weak
11.)  Inspiration on Demand
12.)  Destroyer of Senses
13.)  The Light That Blinds
14.)  Redemption