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Five questions “The Avengers” didn’t answer

Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans in The Avengers

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Unless you’ve been in a media blackout the last few days, you know that “The Avengers” broke all sorts of records this weekend.

And while I’ve gone on record with my fondness for Marvel’s superhero team-up extravaganza, I had a few questions that went unanswered when the credits rolled in “The Avengers.” From the whereabouts of War Machine to the ancestry of the film’s alien invaders, here are five of the biggest questions I was left pondering after watching the big-screen debut of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. (Oh, and for anyone who hasn’t seen “The Avengers” yet, be warned: this will contain some big spoilers!)

1. Where was War Machine?

Last seen in “Iron Man 2,” Iron Man’s armored, heavily weaponized counterpart piloted by James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) was conspicuously absent from “The Avengers.” One can’t help wondering what sort of threat was more deserving of War Machine’s attention than an army of aliens and an angry god threatening to take over our entire planet. After all, if one highly mobile, flying tank with energy weapons can do that much damage to an invading army, how much of Manhattan could’ve been saved if Iron Man and War Machine were on the case?

2. Are the Skrulls around?

Long-rumored to be the villains of “The Avengers,” the Skrulls are a race of shape-changing aliens that the superhero team has battled with many times in the comics world. Marvel successfully pulled one over on all of the outlets that claimed to “confirm” the Skrull’ presence in the film, though, and made the Chitauri the common foe that forces Earth’s heroes to unite. It’s worth noting, however, that the Chitauri were introduced as an alternate-universe version of the Skrulls in The Ultimates, a comic book series that reimagines the Avengers in a more modern-day setting, but the alien race was later reclassified as an off-shoot of the Skrulls. So are the Skrulls still out there, threatening to infiltrate Earth? As one of the Avengers’ recurring enemies, it would be surprising to see the studio ignore the shape-changers’ potential.

3. Is Bruce Banner in control of Hulk?

At the end of “The Incredible Hulk,” a brief shot of Bruce Banner’s eyes going green hints that he might be gaining control over his monstrous alter ego, and that seems to be the case in “The Avengers,” too. When Banner (Mark Ruffalo) smiles and tells his teammates that he’s “always” angry, then intentionally turns into Hulk, it would certainly seem that the man and monster are at least somewhat united in purpose. So what happened when he went all “Hulk smash!” on Black Widow and Thor? I can’t help wondering what the real dynamic is here, and how conscious Banner is of Hulk’s actions. We certainly see a bit more awareness (and even a sense of humor) in Hulk during “The Avengers,” so here’s hoping another solo film featuring the green giant will shed more light on the relationship between Banner and Hulk.

4. What is The Council?

At several points during “The Avengers,” Nick Fury is shown arguing with a shadowy group of advisors he calls “The Council.” So what is this mysterious organization? Its members seem to outrank the S.H.I.E.L.D. chief, so I can’t help wondering whether the group is some part of the U.N. or another international organization that only exists in Marvel’s cinematic universe. Could they have been the real group pulling the strings throughout all of Marvel’s movies? This might seem like a small thread to pull, but there’s reason to believe a big web could be at the other end of it.

5. The Infinity Gems, I presume?

The post-credits scene reveals that Thanos, one of the Avengers’ greatest enemies, played a role in pairing Loki with the Chitauri for the invasion of Earth. Thanos is best known in the Marvel Comics universe as a powerful alien who once sought after — and eventually wielded — the Infinity Gauntlet, a golden glove with six powerful “Infinity Gems” embedded within it. The gems each control one element of the universe (time, space, mind, soul, reality, and power) and when wielded collectively, make whoever wears the glove practically invincible. The Infinity Gauntlet actually appeared in “Thor,” and Marvel carted the prop to Comic-Con last year to show it off, so now that we’ve seen the big-screen version of Thanos there’s reason to believe he’s up to his old tricks again.

So my final questions fall along these lines: Is the Tesseract one of the Infinity Gems? And what about the orb in Loki’s staff?

Given its ability to open a portal to the Chitauri fleet, there’s reason to believe the Tesseract is the Space Gem. And with Loki using his staff to control Hawkeye and other members of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s not too far-fetched to think that orb is the Mind Gem. Could we have already seen two of the gems Thanos will go after in his bid for power?

What were some of your post-“Avengers” questions? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Thank Azaria

Best. Characters. Ever.

Our favorite Hank Azaria characters.

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GIFs via Giphy

Hank Azaria may well be the most prolific voice and character actor of our time. The work he’s done for The Simpsons alone has earned him a permanent place in the pop culture zeitgeist. And now he’s bringing another character to the mainstream: a washed-up sports announcer named Jim Brockmire, in the aptly titled new series Brockmire.

We’re looking forward to it. So much so that we want to look backward, too, with a short-but-sweet retrospective of some of Azaria’s important characters. Shall we begin?

Half The Recurring Simpsons Characters

He’s Comic Book Guy. He’s Chief Wiggum. He’s Apu. He’s Cletus. He’s Snake. He’s Superintendent Chalmers. He’s the Sea Captain. He’s Kurt “Can I Borrow A Feeling” Van Houten. He’s Professor Frink. He’s Carl. And he’s many more. But most importantly he’s Moe Szyslak, the staple character Azaria has voiced since his very first audition for The Simpsons.

Oh, and He’s Frank Grimes

For all the regular Simpsons characters Azaria has played over the years, his most brilliant performance may have been a one-off: Frank Grimes, the scrappy bootstrapper who worked tirelessly all his life for honest, incremental, and easily-undermined success. Azaria’s portrayal of this character was nuanced, emotional, and simply magical.

Patches O’Houlihan

Dodgeball is a “sport of violence, exclusion and degradation.” as Hank Azaria generously points out in his brief but crucial cameo in Dodgeball. That’s sage wisdom. Try applying his “five D’s” to your life on and off the court and enjoy the results.

Harold Zoid

Of Futurama fame. The crazy uncle of Dr. Zoidberg, Harold Zoid was once a lion (or lobster) of the silver screen until Smell-o-vision forced him into retirement.

Agador

The Birdcage was significant for many reasons, and the comic genius of Hank Azaria’s character “Agador” sits somewhere towards the top of that list. If you haven’t seen this movie, shame on you.

Gargamel

Nobody else could make a live-action Gargamel possible.

Ed Cochran

From Ray Donovan. Great character, great last name [editorial note: the author of this article may be bias].

Kahmunra, The Thinker, Abe Lincoln

All in the Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian, a file that let Azaria flex his voice acting and live-action muscles in one fell swoop.

The Blue Raja

Mystery Men has everything, including a fatal case of Smash Mouth. Azaria’s iconic superhero makes the shortlist of redeemable qualities, though.

Dr. Huff

Huff put Azaria in a leading role, and it was good. So good that there is no good gif of it. Internet? More like Inter-not.

Learn more about Hank Azaria’s newest claim to fame right here, and don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Flame Out

Brockmire and Other Public Implosions

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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There’s less than a month until the Brockmire premiere, and to say we’re excited would be an insulting understatement. It’s not just that it stars Hank Azaria, who can do no wrong (and yes, that’s including Mystery Men, which is only cringeworthy because of Smash Mouth). It’s that the whole backstory of the titular character, Jim Brockmire, is the stuff of legends. A one-time iconic sportscaster who won the hearts of fans and players alike, he fell from grace after an unfortunate personal event triggered a seriously public meltdown. See for yourself in the NSFW Funny or Die digital short that spawned the IFC series:

See? NSFW and spectacularly catastrophic in a way that could almost be real. Which got us thinking: What are some real-life sports fails that have nothing to do with botched athletics and everything to do with going tragically off script? The internet is a dark and dirty place, friends, but these three examples are pretty special and mostly safe for work…

Disgruntled Sports Reporter

His co-anchor went offsides and he called it like he saw it.

Jim Rome vs Jim “Not Chris” Everett

You just don’t heckle a professional athlete when you’re within striking distance. Common sense.

Carl Lewis’s National Anthem

He killed it! As in murdered. It’s dead.

To see more moments just like these, we recommend spending a day in your pajamas combing through the muckiness of the internet. But to see something that’s Brockmire-level funny without having to clear your browser history, check out the sneak peeks and extras here.

Don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Mirror, Mirror

Portlandia Season 7 In Hindsight

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available Online and on the IFC App.

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Another season of Portlandia is behind us, and oh what a season it was. We laughed. We cried. And we chuckled uncomfortably while glancing nervously around the room. Like every season before it, the latest Portlandia has held a mirror up to ridiculousness of modern American life, but more than ever that same mirror has reflected our social reality in ways that are at once hysterical and sneakily thought-provoking. Here are just a few of the issues they tackled:

Nationalism

So long, America, Portland is out! And yes, the idea of Portland seceding is still less ludicrous than building a wall.

Men’s Rights

We all saw this coming. Exit gracefully, dudes.

Protests

Whatever you stand for, stand for it together. Or with at least one other person.

Free Love

No matter who we are or how we love, deep down we all have the ability to get stalky.

Social Status

Modern self-esteem basically hinges on likes, so this isn’t really a stretch at all.

These moments are just the tip of the iceberg, and much more can be found in the full seventh season of #Portlandia, available right now #online and on the #IFC app.

via GIPHY

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