TV Review: Open-Ended Deals, Revenge, and an ‘Apprentice’ for Rumple on ‘Once Upon a Time’

Caution: This review contains spoilers.

In an earlier post, I was intrigued when Rumple (Robert Carlyle) conjured up the Sorcerer’s Hat from the round box. Last night, we found out a little more about his intentions with the prized item, something that previous Dark Ones have been seeking for year. In Fairy Tale Land (FTL), Zoso tried and failed against the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. (Do the subsequent Dark Ones receive memories from their predecessors, in addition to the powers?) Rumple is good at solving puzzles and uses a deal with Anna (Elizabeth Lail) to get what he needs.

Mr. Gold's Pawn Shop, Steveston, BC. Taken by Pat Cuadros on 9/22/14.

Mr. Gold’s Pawn Shop, Steveston, BC. Taken by Pat Cuadros on location, 9/22/14.

Also in Storybrooke, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) asks Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) out on a date. Eager to impress, Hook goes to the pawn shop, threatening Rumple with blackmail again for another deal. Hook wants his hand restored, which is an easy fix that carries a heavy problem: does the hand represent the “old” version of Hook, the devious pirate, or can Hook be a new man for Emma? The possibility that the hand could carry your old personality trait is interesting. It’s almost reminiscent of the difficulties that occur in the old “Frankenstein” films, with reused flesh being evil or corrupt. On the other hand (no pun intended), it might be a bit of a stretch.

Emma manages to forget about the Snow Queen (for a short period of time, but she’s still troubled by Will Scarlett’s (Michael Socha) antics around town and the curious water puddle under her car (and nowhere else). She’s also determined to find her own place, as the Charming apartment seems to be too crowded and lacking privacy. We also uncover through the census records that the Snow Queen (Elizabeth Mitchell) was not brought over by a curse. Who gave her passage to Storybrooke? Was it Rumple?

Avoid the Open-Ended Deal

It’s pretty clear by the end of the episode that you never want to make a deal that you don’t understand. Never say the words, “I’ll do whatever it takes” to Rumplestiltskin. Anna is very clever at getting out of it and we find that she was the first person to exercise control over Rumple with the Dagger. Viewers may have marveled at the complexity of her deal: she believes Rumple’s vial contained poison for the old apprentice, when it was actually an antidote. Rather, Rumple wanted Anna to be tempted by darkness and then turn away. It’s such a complex deal that focuses on motive and intent instead of a simple physical result.

As a newcomer to the Enchanted Forest, Anna has an excuse for launching headfirst into a deal. Hook, on the other hand, is quite familiar with Rumple’s reputation. He makes two deals that endanger his relationship with Emma and now he’s become a henchman for Rumple. Obviously, he didn’t learn his lesson in season two when he threatened Belle the first time. Secondly, never try to blackmail the Dark One: Rumple is quite proficient in changing those security tapes.

Even a Dark Sorcerer Needs an Apprentice

Season four delivers yet another amazing episode. There are a lot of threads to keep track of here. The end of this chapter mirrors the very beginning seamlessly with the apprentices at their sweeping chores. Henry (Jared Gilmore) is determined to help Regina (Lana Parrilla) find her happy ending by going undercover at Mr. Gold’s shop. I speculated earlier on Henry’s role and it’s great to see him as the new apprentice. Will Henry learn how to use magic? We’ll be sure to get more tidbits from “Fantasia,” I would wager.

Rumple aims to absorb magic to charge his pointy hat. (Will we find out what the inside of the Sorcerer’s Hat looks like?) He already used it with Hook to exact his revenge on old man, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. After that, he’ll try to rewrite the curse on his Dagger: retaining the powers, but shedding the “control” feature. One would imagine that he’s more determined on that course, given the difficult time Zelena gave him in season three. Will Rumple eventually target Elsa and Emma, as their magic seems pretty expansive? Even though Hook seems to be under his control, Rumple faces a few challenges in his mission. Elsa, Emma, and Henry may all prove to be obstacles. The main one is undoubtedly his single “light in the darkness,” Belle. The last time he lied and conjured something with a Dagger (the Wraith), Belle left him.

Catch Those Classic Moments and What’s Next?

“The Apprentice” was rife with moments that pulled directly from “Fantasia,” a beloved Disney classic. The sequences run from the walking broomstick, the Sorceror’s Hat, and the sweeping chores.  It’s been done before, but I think “Once Upon a Time” has been one of the most successful renditions; you may finish the episode eager to view “Fantasia” again and refresh your memory in a good way with the original. (Let’s define failure in that you go back to the original because the new version totally got it wrong!)

Let’s not forget the other lines and visuals from other Disney movies. You can have bonus points if you caught the “Lady and the Tramp” reference last night. Next week’s teases another favorite, “Do you want to build a snowman?” Leave it to the Snow Queen to make that pastime into an ominous one!

“Once Upon a Time” airs Sunday evenings at 8|7c on ABC.

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Kevin Spacey Discusses His Career and “House of Cards” at UVa

Kevin Spacey sees Frank Underwood as a “misunderstood” role model in the political arena depicted in the Netflix hit series, “House of Cards.” Therefore, his counterpart would make a wonderful source of information for students looking to be successful at the University of Virginia. At least that’s what the Academy Award winning actor believes. He was in Charlottesville last night as part of the President’s Speaker Series for the Arts, now its second year. The event was held at the John Paul Jones Arena (which admittedly needs better acoustics, or please use a different venue next year).

Kevin Spacey at UVa - Photo by Pat Cuadros

Kevin Spacey at UVa – Photo by Pat Cuadros.

The series serves to highlight the importance of the arts (music, drama, dance, architectural design, and studio art) in forming the whole person. Spacey applauded the efforts of schools that are working to embrace “STEAM” instead of “STEM.”

Spacey has had an extensive career in film and theater, but he’s well aware of the success of “House of Cards.” It’s clear that he enjoys playing the role, remarking that “It’s great playing a politician who gets s*** done.” (Pardon the masked expletive.) As I mentioned earlier, he even dispenses advice to the students, complete with Frank’s cold, southern drawl. Here is one such inspirational gem:

Tips for surviving your first year of college, according to Frank Underwood. Photo by Pat Cuadros.

Tips for surviving your first year of college, according to Frank Underwood. Photo by Pat Cuadros.

For those weary of spoilers, the advice consisted of quotes from the first season of the show only. All kidding aside, Spacey switched from a lighter tone to a serious, empassioned tone as he shared stories from his life. It’s important to be willing to work hard and take risks to achieve your goals, even if others don’t believe you’re heading in the right direction. And, he certainly has an innovative record to prove the truth of his words: finishing eleven seasons as the artistic director of the Old Vic Theatre, heading the first Netflix Instant shows, and even lending his voice to the next “Call of Duty” video game.

After delivering remarks to the crowd, Spacey was interviewed by Jody Kielbasa, Vice Provost for the arts and Director of the Virginia Film Festival. He regaled the crowd with his celebrity impersonations, running from Jack Lemmon to Bill Clinton. As Clinton, he quipped, “You can never get an education bill passed that fast” when he commented on question of realism in “House of Cards.”

Kevin Spacey answers questions from Jody Kielbasa at the JPJ, October, 18, 2014. Photo by Pat Cuadros

Kevin Spacey answers questions from Jody Kielbasa at the JPJ, October, 18, 2014. Photo by Pat Cuadros.

As with many actors, Spacey touched on the differences between theater and film. He favors theater over film due to the malleability of the former. “You’ll never be better on film” in the sense that those cuts are final. In contrast, theatrical productions (all the rehearsals and performances) coalesce into an amazing journey that actors shape themselves. He says, “Theater is the actors’ meeting. Film is the director’s meeting.”

Much was made of Jack Lemmon’s role as mentor to Kevin Spacey. Spacey discussed the importance of good teachers in helping young people because they help you maintain a “sense of confidence” to keep you on track with your goals. True teachers are the ones who believe in you even when no one else does.

It’s only fitting to end on the topic of education, given the aims of the President’s Speakers for the Arts series. Kevin Spacey was a great speaker to invite to UVa. Let’s hope next year’s guest will also be an excellent leader and promoter of the arts. Tina Fey was a great choice in the inaugural year, due to her connections to the university. However, the speakers don’t have to be former students, as this past weekend has shown.

Anyone up for watching “House of Cards” again? You can still find the first and second seasons on Netflix Instant through a subscription.

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TV Review: Snow Queen Brings ‘Rocky Road’ for All on ‘Once Upon a Time’

Caution: This review contains spoilers.

“There’s no problem that can’t be solved with a bit of ice cream.” The Snow Queen’s words would normally hold true, it doesn’t work that way if the tasty treat happens to be from Any Given Sundae and is enchanted. In last night’s chapter of “Once Upon a Time,” Marian (Christie Laing) falls ill because of a spell in her ice cream. It begins by adding a silvery streak to her hair, turning her into an ice statue as the cold threatens to reach her heart and kill her. Yes, yet another pull from “Frozen,” but that’s only one of the issues the Charmings have to tackle. Robin (Sean Maguire) tries True Love’s Kiss, which does not work, because Regina (Lana Parrilla) is his True Love.

Back in Arendelle, Kristoff (Scott Michael Foster) spies on Hans (Tyler Jacob Moore), discovering that the villain intends to trap Elsa (Georgina Haig) in an urn and take the kingdom from her. Hans uncaps the urn and expects victory; instead, he’s unleashed a lady (Elizabeth Mitchell) who can wield powers just like Elsa’s. This Snow Queen, as we’ll refer to her, claims to be Elsa and Anna’s aunt. But just who is she really?

Any Given Sundae ice cream shop, Storybrooke (Steveston, BC). Photo by Pat Cuadros.

Any Given Sundae ice cream shop, on the set of Storybrooke (Steveston, BC). Photo by Pat Cuadros.

In Storybrooke, the townspeople are convinced that Elsa is responsible for the latest problem, along with the ice wall that remains at the borders. There’s also a renewal of tensions between old enemies. Regina quips to Emma (Jennifer Morrison) that the “Savior needs saving these days,” remarks that get under Emma’s skin. Hook gets Rumple (Robert Carlyle) to help Elsa track down the party responsible for framing her, which turns out to be the Snow Queen. It leads to a great confrontation, whereby Emma saves both Elsa and Hook from the “Dairy Queen.” Even though Emma seems insecure about her status as the Savior, she proves that she has a lot of power when she’s provoked enough. As in the previous episode, she’s still struggling to control her powers. Meanwhile, Regina has enlisted Henry (Jared Gilmore) in Operation Mongoose to find the storybook author and give her a new ending.

Return of the Dark One

The momentum continues to be strong in season four, introducing a new villain but also reviving the evil tendencies of both Rumple and Regina. Rumplestiltskin is certainly an interesting puzzle this season. It was only last season when speculation was abound about whether he would “go dark” in order to save Henry and defeat Pan. I’d argue that he never actually went dark and resorted to “old habits,” though he wrestled with the question a lot. Lately however, the pawnbroker appears to have reverted to his darker tendencies, looking rather gloomy when the Charmings and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) cross his threshold for assistance. He even goes so far as to have Belle (Emilie de Ravin) “command” him with the fake dagger to tell the truth to the Charmings. He’s digging himself deeper in his deceit, all in the name of power, which Rumple unquestionably finds addictive. It’s only a matter of time before Belle discovers the truth and leaves him (for good or temporarily is the next question).

It’s almost like Rumple has reverted back to the way he was in season one. His demeanor and bearing at the very end of the episode seem to mirror those old mannerisms. Arguably, he’s gone a bit further: his voice even changed in the Pawn Shop with the Charmings and Hook to a tone somewhere in between his regular voice and his Dark One voice. It’s difficult to pinpoint it, but I would argue that’s probably intentional on Robert Carlyle’s part as he’s proven before his versatility in portraying the complex history of Rumple. Anyway, Rumple knows the Snow Queen and her plans and he’s itching to make a deal with her.

What’s Next?

Next week, the episode is entitled “The Apprentice,” which may bring us back to the curious hat that Rumplestiltskin found. I imagine you have enough questions about last night’s episode alone! How does the Snow Queen know Emma Swan? How come neither Emma nor Elsa remember her? In any case, the Royals of Arendelle and Storybrooke face an uphill battle against their new and formidable foe. Moving forward, perhaps there are some epic showdowns you’re dying to see: Emma vs. Snow Queen? Elsa vs. Snow Queen? Or even the Fire Queen (Regina) vs. the Ice Queen? The older rivalries can also rear their ugly heads, so don’t be surprised to see Rumple vs. Hook or Emma vs. Regina. A little ice cream probably won’t resolve the issues of your favorite Storybrooke characters, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying a scoop of rocky road (or vanilla, my personal favorite) as you tune in in the weeks to come!

“Once Upon a Time” airs Sunday evenings on ABC at 8|7c.

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‘Doctor Who’ Review: Using 66 Seconds Wisely on the ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’

Caution: This review contains spoilers.

It feels like a Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot mystery on this weekend’s installment of “Doctor Who.” Victims claim to see a mummy (that no one else can see) shortly before they die. Thankfully, Madame Vastra and Jenny are not on board the space version of the Orient Express. Also, if you’ve noticed a different sort of tone about the episode, it may have something to do with bringing in a new writer, Jamie Mathieson. His first foray into Who lore is quite welcome.

The TARDIS takes Clara (Jenna Coleman) and the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) to the Orient Express for “one last hurrah.” The young schoolteacher was positively fuming last week on “Kill the Moon” and she seems ready to stop traveling with the Doctor. Or is she?

The mummy, also known as the Foretold, kills its victim by the end of 66 seconds. The egg timer effect at the lower left corner of the screen is a nice touch for building the tension and suspense. The mummy can teleport, so locking yourself in a room to get away from it won’t help at all. It’s a clever twist on the locked room, a frequent setting used in classic murder mysteries. The outstretched hands and silence of the monster seem to be a fun nod to the old Hammer films. Legend tells of a secret word you can employ to get the Foretold to stop pursuing you. So how does the Doctor figure it out?

Clara and the Doctor are separated for half of the episode, so he relies Perkins (Frank Skinner) as his Watson in the case. Halfway through, Gus the “friendly” voice on the train, lifts the holograms to reveal that the train is actually a scientific lab. All of the foremost scientific experts are on the train and they are charged with stopping the mummy before it kills all of them. It turns out Gus also has the Doctor’s number. Was the trap set up by Missy?

The Doctor figures out that Maisie is the next victim and asks Clara to bring her over. Clara is upset at being an accomplice in his “lies,” but she follows his instructions. There’s a stroke of brilliance here when the Foretold shows up, as the Doctor turns the tables and transfers aspects of Maisie’s thoughts to himself. The transfer tricks the mummy, which focuses its murderous inclinations on the Doctor.

As always, our favorite Time Lord positively scintillates when he reasons out problems aloud as time runs short. This week was no exception and still comes with the humor: “I’m your next victim. Are you my mummy?” Peter Capaldi is so good at keeping up with the different moods and bursts of energy from the Doctor. It’s nice to see a better script for him to work with here. Mathieson also wrote the script for next week’s episode, “Flatline.”

The Doctor saves everyone from the train as it explodes. Clara has a change of heart and says Danny is fine with her TARDIS adventures, which brings us back to the beginning of the Danny-Clara ship (which I still find tiresome). Clara is being dishonest with both her boyfriend and her “not-boyfriend,” which will could cause more antagonism between the two men.

The Doctor is not her boyfriend, yet sometimes the tension and the dialogue point to something else. The way Clara tries to reason things out to herself with the words “some man” and “dumping” make it sound like a hard break up. In any case, the question remains: will Clara be leaving the TARDIS for good?

“Doctor Who” airs Saturday evenings on BBC America at 9|8c.

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TV Review: Anyone Could Have Killed Danny as ‘Gracepoint’ Crawls Along

Caution: This review contains spoilers.

As the town reels from the death of Danny Solano, Detectives Emmett Carver (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn) are gathering more information on the case. Secrets are abound and slowly coming out about many of the characters. Why does the wildlife recorder (Nick Nolte) only now recall seeing Danny? Then there’s the housekeeper (Susan Wright) who tends the activity house on the beach: why does she have a skateboard in her RV?

It’s no surprise that the Solanos themselves have a lot of issues. Ellie discovers cocaine from Chloe’s (Madalyn Horcher) room. Beth (Virginia Kull) reveals she is pregnant to the local priest. And Carver and Ellie find out through security camera footage that Mark (Michael Pena) was lying about his whereabouts on the night of the murder. Mark looks to be a suspect for sure, as Ellie finds that the activity house on the beach has been scrubbed clean. Only Mark’s prints are in the building. Or is someone trying to frame him?

Ellie is still frustrated with Carver from his running list of questions (you can’t interrupt him), selfishness, and rude demeanor. There’s still a lot more to uncover about Carver. Why does he get sick in the police station? According to reporter Renee Clemons (Jessica Lucas), Carver dropped the ball on the case of three missing children in Rosemont. Could that fact jeopardize the outcome of the Solano investigation?

Thus far, I would say that Tennant and Gunn only had one moment of chemistry: their discussion about the burrito and moral codes. It’s the only time that I’ve laughed at the show.

“Are there beans in it?” Carver asks.

“Yes, it’s a burrito,” Ellie replies.

One wonders about Ellie’s inexperience and naiveté in trusting the townspeople too much, as Carver points out repeatedly in their exchanges. At least she isn’t pulled in by the claims of the “reluctant psychic,” Sam, who claims to be getting messages from Danny.

As with last week, the pace on “Gracepoint” feels painfully slow. The slow motion sequences feel awkward rather than adding to the gravity of the situation. Rather, the best cinematic trick comes with the POV (point of view) shot of Carver as he stares at the cliff painting in his hotel suite; subsequently, the painted cliffs shift into a shot of the real cliffs. Cinematic touches should add to the plot instead of dragging it down.

“Gracepoint” airs on Thursday evenings at 9|8c on FOX.

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Film Review: ‘Dracula Untold’ Might Be Better Left Untold

Caution : This review contains spoilers.

Box offices numbers from Friday place “Dracula Untold” at the top spot over “Gone Girl.” Some expect the latter to pull out in front soon, an outcome I would also anticipate. Either that, or it’s a slow week at the box office with the holiday weekend at hand.

Since the beginning of cinema (talkies specifically, for my purposes), films have looked to put a spin on the Dracula stories. Just think back to the Hammer films of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Granted, we’ve come so far with special effects. However, the film seems to plod along in safer territory until getting a touch more creative by the end.

The other reason “Dracula Untold” may leave viewers somewhat disappointed is that much of the plot is already given away in the trailer. (Is that why “The Judge” received a lukewarm reception?) Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans) and his people in Transylvania have enjoyed peace for ten years. Then the Turks come, looking for 1,000 boys to join the Sultan’s (Dominic Cooper) army. Unwilling to give up his son (Art Parkinson), Vlad’s resistance brings the Turks to his lands for battle.

Predictably, Vlad ventures to the dark mountain where he had an earlier encounter with a vampire. He makes a deal to have powers for three days, returning to his regular human state only if he resists the urge to drink blood in that interim. Vlad is presented as a complex character, looking to make sacrifices to save his family and his people. That’s where we’re presented with a bit of a twist, rather than simply making Dracula a blood thirsty beast.

However, the film seems to crawl along. There are some action scenes in which Vlad takes on the Turkish armies himself. And the Sultan shows some creativity by having the final bout in a room full of silver. Even so, the movie looks to function as a prequel, laying the groundwork for a sequel set in the present day.

“Dracula Untold” tries too hard to be safe, potentially screwing up an opportunity to ever reach a sequel. It is still a marked improvement over the NBC series, which was canceled during its first season. It’ll be interesting to see if the sequel will go a different route or say, add an R-rating this time. Until then, go enjoy the first “Underworld” film, which really put a new spin on the vampire lore.

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TV Review: Talking is Overrated in ‘Black-ish’

Caution: This review contains spoilers on the second episode of “Black-ish.”

Thankfully, “Black-ish” went a different route last week in the story line. There was still a lot of exposition by Dre (Anthony Anderson), but the episode also focused on the thoughts and feelings of his wife, Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross). Dre is dismayed that Rainbow already gave Andre Jr. the “talk” and is determined to make up for it. That tactic backfires, as Jr. (Matcus Scribner) proceeds to give a play-by-play of questions and adolescent thoughts. Rainbow wants to help Zoey (Yara Shahidi) but keeps getting so excited during their talks that she has no idea what the scoop is.

As I hinted above, “Black-ish” still appears to be looking for its footing. The “weird” and “gay” jokes about Dre going shirtless are a little off putting. The children end up taking the spotlight from Anderson and Ross. Jack (Miles Brown) and Diane (Marsai Martin) are puzzled about what “the talk” could possibly be and they are repeatedly frustrated in their attempts at garnering more attention.

Pops (Laurence Fishburne) sweeps in at the end with his one-liners. Apparently, it’s all about looking like you’re listening and then using the right tone with your kids. “I Morgan Freeman-ed her,” he sums up to Rainbow about Zoey. Pops likes to oversimplify things: here Dre listens so much he has to start tuning his son out, whereas Rainbow isn’t listening enough to her daughter.

Writers still have work to do, but some of their ideas are hitting their mark with audiences. It’s enough to score an extension to a full season, from 13 episodes to 22.

“Black-ish” airs Wednesday evenings on ABC at 9:30|8:30c.

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