TV News: Title for Season 9 Opener of “Doctor Who” Revealed

The official screening of the Christmas special of “Doctor Who” offered a hint about series 9, which doesn’t open until next Fall. According to Radio Times and other news outlets, the title was revealed to be “The Magician’s Apprentice.” Radio Times speculates on the connection to Peter Capaldi’s magician look. There are, however, a number of famous magicians or sorcerers that could easily be the focus of the season opener. Think Houdini or even literary giants like Merlin or Gandalf. Perhaps a Disney connection would be a stretch, but the Fantasia sequence always seems to come to mind with a reference to an “apprentice.” In addition, Steven Moffat has confirmed that Missy (Michelle Gomez) will be returning. Could she be the magician?

After figuring out the identity of the magician, one still has the question of who the apprentice might be. There’s been a lot of speculation about Clara Oswald’s (Jenna Coleman) possible return (or departure). She might be a likely candidate for an apprentice if she continues to travel with the Doctor. Will her excursions stay on a weekly schedule or will she be more of a full-time companion like the others? One thing is for certain, next fall seems so far off!

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TV Recap: Martin Freeman Crosses “The Hobbit” with “The Office” on “SNL”

Caution: This review contains spoilers.

In case you missed it, Martin Freeman (“Sherlock”) hosted “Saturday Night Live” on NBC last night. Like his “Sherlock” co-star, Benedict Cumberbatch, Freeman is everywhere in entertainment news on both UK and US fronts. The hosting gig coincides with this week’s release of “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” the final installment of the series. The best skit was probably “The Office: Middle Earth,” which SNL is now referring to as “Hobbit Office.” You can view it below:

Had Tolkien not written “Lord of the Rings,” we would certainly wonder what became of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, Gollum, and the rest of the characters we know so well. We’re asked to forget the sequel for a moment and play along with the premise of the “Hobbit” crossover with “The Office.” American viewers may know that Freeman was in the UK version of “The Office,” a series that is different than its highly successful American counterpart.

The sequence feels a little uneven, but it offers quite a few laughs. I think it’s strongest in the beginning as Bilbo explains how he saved Middle Earth and then moved on by joining a paper company. You may also double over with laughter at the “Precious” moment. Taran Killam is perfect at capturing Andy Serkis’ intonation and frustration as poor Gollum, who is now a Dwight figure. The opening “credits” replace the BBC letters with JRR as a clever reference to author J.R.R. Tolkien. The costumes and ear extensions are a nice touch as well, but maybe the Orc wins in that overall category. Gandalf (Bobby Moynihan), the manager, could have been much stronger.

Nonetheless, the segment was a funny alternative to how things could have played out. Though it seems to function largely as a one-off, it leaves open the possibility that such a world might be revisited in the future by NBC. One might easily envision a rivalry with a paper firm led by Sarumon or Frodo starting out as the newbie that sorts and distributes the mail. SNL could find a way to develop new anecdotes, particularly if Ian McKellen or Elijah Wood serve as hosts down the line.

It seems to be the year of crossovers, with recent hyped events such as “The Flash” and “Arrow.” It’s only a matter of time before other shows are pulled into the fray. Or at the very least, the “Hobbit” and “Office” crossover leaves some of you with ideas on how to organize that Halloween party next year at the office.

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“Gracepoint” Season Finale: Danny Solano’s Killer is [Spoiler]

Caution: This post contains major spoilers on the season finale of “Gracepoint.”

Danny Solano’s killer is finally revealed on the “Gracepoint” finale. It’s also Carver’s (David Tennant) last day on the case; what’s another another eight hours of daylight? Well, it’s enough for a couple of final pieces of evidence to fall into place, at a quicker pace than the rest of the investigation. While the previous episode focused a lot of attention on Vince (Stephen Louis Grush) and Susan (Jacki Weaver), there are a lot of points that foreshadow the outcome in tonight’s episode.

Carver pulls the e-mails from Tom Miller’s computer and carries out an interview with him and Joe. Joe doesn’t like the direction of the questions and stops the session. We find that like Vince, Joe wears size 10 shoes. Danny’s cell phone comes on shortly afterward and Carver follows the signal … straight to Joe Miller.

Yes, Joe Miller (Josh Hamilton) confesses that he met Danny Solano (Nicholas Filipovic) at the hut by the cliffs. That evening was probably when he might have pushed things further, had Danny not decided to run from the cabin. With the slick grass and ensuing struggle, Danny falls and hits his head. Joe takes the body down to the beach and goes home.

Ellie (Anna Gunn) is devastated and upset, lashing out at Joe, who insists that he is “a good man.” She is forced to take leave with pay and move to a hotel with her sons. Both Ellie and Joe know that their family has been “destroyed.” Putting the finishing touches on the case is not only difficult for her, but for Carver as well, who perhaps has a bit of a soft spot for Ellie after all. We saw as early as the dinner scene (if not before) that he hoped for some type of connection (as a work partner) even if he’s so rough around the edges.

The revelation is very raw for the town, embodied in Beth (Virginia Kull) and Mark’s (Michael Peña) respective reactions to Ellie and Joe. Ellie’s judging question to Susan, “How could you not know?” is tossed back to her by Beth. At the same time, now that the clouds of suspicion been allowed to clear, there’s a sense of healing for the town as they gather for Danny’s service and for a bonfire on the beach.

It’s another moment for Carver and Ellie to connect. Ellie says, “Look at us, the former detective’s club.” And Carver has a moment on the phone with his daughter, promising to be at her graduation. It was only a matter of time for his smile to go away, when Carver watched his interview with Tom (Jack Irvine) once more and noticed the glance at Joe. We already know that Joe is covering up Tom’s involvement: Tom accidentally hits Danny with an oar and kills him during the chase out of the cabin. Carver dials up Ellie, who looks a bit indecisive about whether to answer the call. However, “Gracepoint” has been cancelled with very little to show in the ratings. On this side of the pond, it looks like we won’t see what happens next in the town or whether Tom would be brought in for further questioning.

To a certain degree, it’s surprising that all 10 episodes were aired, when other low performing shows were pulled before the midway point. The momentum of the opening episodes was constantly at a snail’s pace, dragged down even more by the repeated use of slow motion sequences and often less than stellar performances by the non-leads in the cast (actors other than Tennant and Gunn). There were glimmers of excellent chemistry between Tennant and Gunn. However, a lack of new material largely until Tom’s disappearance probably contributed to a lot of the stiffness in the performances. There was so much energy and a more urgent pacing when the plot deviated into something different.

That brings me back to my question since the beginning of “Gracepoint” – why remake a series if it’s going to be a near copy of the original? Why not take a gamble and create a program that might start with the same premise in the first episode and then grow into its own from there? It’s a strategy that helped shows like “Elementary,” “Veep” and “The Office.” The situation was particularly forced upon “Elementary,” because CBS couldn’t get Steven Moffat to agree to an American adaptation of “Sherlock.” Sadly, we’ve been given a crime drama that fizzled out long before it could reach it’s real sprint toward the finish.

Anyway, if you’re like me and you have yet to see the original “Broadchurch,” it will be available on Netflix starting tomorrow. In that version of the crime drama, David Tennant (“Doctor Who”) plays the same detective, except his name is Alec Hardy. The program has been renewed for a second season or series to air on ITV in 2015. I’ll revisit the “Gracepoint” finale once I finish the first season of “Broadchurch.”

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News: My Interview Question to Peter Capaldi for “Inside the Mind of Leonardo 3D”

During an excursion to our nation’s capital, I was pleasantly surprised to see the activity on what I’ll refer to as the “Leonardo da Vinci scene” when I checked my phone. I’ve already mentioned the Leonardo exhibitions in 2015, each of which seem to be well worth the trip if you can get around to it.

However, it’s not often that you can count yourself as part of news developments, as was the case in my situation. The team behind the U.S. release of “Inside the Mind of Leonardo” asked for questions on November 25th, either to put to Peter Capaldi or to discuss behind-the-scenes aspects of the documentary. I sent in the following question:

My question to the (Spin) Doctor. We didn't get any spin in his answer. Photo by Pat Cuadros.

My question to Peter Capaldi, the (Spin) Doctor. We didn’t get any spin in his answer. Photo by Pat Cuadros.

Every day, they’ve been posting small clips with the questions they selected for Capaldi to answer. They uploaded the answer to my inquiry just this past Saturday, which you can view here or down below:

I like the point he makes in his response. Your first inclination may be to view the Renaissance as a great period of bustling activity, knowledge-sharing, construction, and so on. Certainly, we know from historical accounts (museums and archives, too) that the workshops and courts were busy. However, it didn’t mean that progress was made on all fronts or that all ideas were readily and quickly accepted everywhere. The geniuses in history often faced an uphill battle on some of the masterpieces or intellectual concepts they were advocating.

I highly encourage you to check out their Facebook and Twitter pages for more information about the project and to see what other interesting questions people are submitting. Don’t get left behind on all things Leonardo because there will be a lot of great stuff you’ll wish you had seen!

“Inside the Mind of Leonardo in 3D” is being released in the U.S. under History Films and Submarine Deluxe. Directed by Julian Jones, it stars Peter Capaldi as Leonardo da Vinci.

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Film News: “Terminator: Genisys” Resets With More of Arnold Schwarzenegger

Caution: This news flash contains spoilers.

As we approach 2015, we already know one cinematic trend will be continuing: going for a reset or a reboot on a series. In recent years, we’ve seen it with “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Star Trek.” With the former, production companies return to exploring the origin story, making it unnecessary to watch a previous series. In the latter case, the reset is a spin on the origin story, coming about because someone interferes with the timeline and throws everything out of whack. In both cases, making comparisons with the older films is an inevitable activity.

Altering time is the situation in the upcoming “Terminator: Genisys,” as shown in the new trailer for the fifth Terminator film in the franchise:

John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to save Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). However, Sarah doesn’t need any rescuing (it’s the opposite for Reese) because she has a terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) on her side already. There seem to be a lot of Arnold terminators running around in this movie, even fighting each other! It’s probably difficult for some of us to imagine the “Terminator” series entirely without Arnold Schwarzenegger, let alone the words “I’ll be back.” He’s been excited about returning to action films since the end of his terms as California governor, something he mentioned when I had the opportunity to attend the 2012 release of his autobiography, “Total Recall.” Some films have not fared so well, but others like “The Expendables” franchise have pulled in the box office dollars.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Washington, DC. Washington Post Live discussion and book signing in 2012. Photo by Pat Cuadros.

Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Hamilton in Washington, DC. Washington Post Live discussion and book signing in 2012. Photo by Pat Cuadros.

It’ll be interesting to see how the varying elements from the previous Terminator movies play out in “Genisys.” Can Judgement Day be stopped this time? I’d venture to guess that “Genisys” does not fix the problem of Judgement Day, which has always been described as “inevitable.” Otherwise, it’s the premature end of what could be a new trilogy (or a four-part series). Messing with Sarah Connor’s time stream is not new in itself; there was the short-lived and uneven “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” on FOX, where she and her son jumped forward to 2007. “Genisys” appears to be a much better venture than “TSCC” and leaves a plenty of room for other developments. For instance, will Kyle Reese’s part extend past a single feature film?

Among the many questions on our minds, I’ll put forth two additional points. Given all the different “Arnold Terminators,” there may be one machine to focus on as an ally for Sarah and Reece. Will this Terminator be like the machine from the second movie? Or will he be of a different mettle? Secondly, Matt Smith (“Doctor Who”) has also been cast a role in the film but he was not in the trailer. What’s his character’s “connection” to John Connor? Perhaps we’ll uncover that information in the next promo.

“Terminator: Genisys” comes to U.S. theaters in July 2015.

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2015: A Big Year for Leonardo da Vinci in U.S. Theaters and Museums

Welcome to another installment of TV Spyglass, the Saturday edition if you will. I just published an article about the new screening dates for the documentary “Inside the Mind of Leonardo 3D” (2D at select screenings). It stars Peter Capaldi (“Doctor Who,” “The Thick of It”) as Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance artist celebrated for both his scientific studies and artistic talents. The focus is generally on the Codex Atlanticus, one of Leonardo’s many journals.

If you are lucky enough to see the documentary later this month or in January 2015 (or on DVD later?), you may be wondering how to enhance your Leonardo experience. Sorry, I couldn’t help but put a spin on the master’s own reference to himself as a “disciple of experience.” The big question therefore is this: Do I have to travel to Europe? The good news for those of us on this side of the pond is a resounding “no.” Fortunately, I know of four different places where you can go, two of which are in fairly close proximity.

On this journey, one of your stops is the state of Arizona for the upcoming Leonardo exhibition in the Phoenix Art Museum, running from January 24, 2015 to April 12, 2015. You’ll be able to view the Codex Leceister in the display that highlights the “artist’s curiosity, direct observation, and thinking on paper.” These aspects comprise an important part of “Leonardo’s active mind and working method,” according to the gallery’s site. It’s a nice way to see another one of his journals, because Julian Jones’ documentary is based on the Atlanticus.

The second place on my list is Virginia, which means a coast-to-coast flight. A lovely red chalk drawing of a girl’s head will be on display, along with pages from the “Codex on the Flight of Birds” at the Muscarelle Museum of Art. The exhibition, at the College of William & Mary, is called “Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty” and runs from February 21st to April 5th. If you’re going to examine beauty (and if you’ve seen Leonardo’s face studies), you’ll know to expect something on the idea of the grotesque as well and how these concepts were thought to reveal a person’s inner character.

If for some reason you miss this time table at William & Mary, don’t despair. The same exhibit moves after that to Boston, Massachusetts, reopening at the Museum of Fine Arts. Perhaps you’d prefer to wait anyway, as the gallery rooms open on Leonardo’s birthday, April 15th, and runs until July 12th. If the birthday connection is of little interest, then the William & Mary stop would be more convenient, because you should definitely make it a point to visit the final destination on my list: Washington, D.C.

Everything I’ve covered so far deals with journal extracts and drawings. It’s all very well and good, even quite exciting and fascinating. Yet you may be feeling a little put out, having concluded that the U.S. only houses sketches done by the Renaissance artist. I’m afraid that’s where you’re rather mistaken. What’s even better is the fact that this next piece is not part of a temporary or special exhibition. It’s been part of an American collection since the 1960s. On top of that, admission is free.

Leonardo da Vinci, Ginevra de' Benci, c. 1474/1478. Oil on Panel. National Gallery of Art, Washinton, D.C. Photo by Pat Cuadros.

Leonardo da Vinci, Ginevra de’ Benci, c. 1474/1478. Oil on Panel. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Photo by Pat Cuadros.

You’ll be heading out to the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, D.C. By the section of Italian Renaissance artwork in a relatively quiet hallway, you’ll find this little gem on a wall: the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in any gallery on the Western Hemisphere. As opposed to a visit to his more famous piece at the Louvre, you can walk right up to this one and have at least a minute or two to get your camera settings right. (No jostling with crowds at a distance behind ropes and security here!) Who is this lovely lady? She’s Ginevra de’ Benci, the daughter of wealthy Florentine banker. This painting is a must-see for a number of reasons that we can explore I have an opportunity to review the special exhibitions in 2015. However, I will say that you won’t see this painting covered during “Inside the Mind of Leonardo 3D.”

It would be a nice touch if Submarine Deluxe and History Films decide to partner with any or all of these institutions to add screenings of “Inside the Mind of Leonardo” in their auditoriums. Exhibition and documentary attendees could really add to their experience of understanding Leonardo da Vinci’s art and thoughts both on the big screen and in person. In any case, you’d be remiss not to attend these events. 2015 is certainly a big year for anything related to Leonardo da Vinci.

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New Trailer, Screenings Added, and Updates on “Inside the Mind of Leonardo 3D”

Last month, I’d mentioned that “Inside the Mind of Leonardo 3D” was pushed back in its limited release at U.S. theaters. A number of updates are up on the promotional Facebook page for the documentary’s rollout beginning December 19th. There’s the split face poster with a list of the new screening dates and more cities in the mix, all additions that make the delay worth it.

The other development is that Submarine Deluxe and History films, the companies behind the U.S. release, put out an official trailer, also included below:

Having viewed some other clips about the documentary, I’m not exactly sure what to make of this trailer. The marketing and editing team could have picked better “real world” clips to showcase, instead of aiming for an intentional provocative angle that runs the danger of falling a little flat. I’m referring in particular to the photo booth sequence, which just feels a bit gimmicky here. Slapping a sexy bit here and there in a promo isn’t exactly anything new, an approach that directly counters the purpose of the project: to present Leonardo’s work in a way that’s never been done before.

It’s enough to let Leonardo’s sketches (enhanced with the stereoscopic effects) and Peter Capaldi’s monologues stand alone, maybe with a few more of the majestic and awe-inspiring bird’s-eye views of the Italian landscapes. Leonardo’s detailed sketches and his own words are more than sufficient enough to have impact on audiences. I encourage you to peruse other previews and materials on the project so you can see what I mean.

A few days ago, the “Doctor Who” team posted a video of Peter Capaldi in “Questions from the TARDIS Tin” as part of the DVD launch for the eighth season of the popular show. Submarine Deluxe and History Films seem to have taken a page from the BBC’s game plan (or it’s just a coincidence). It was a very smart move for them to put out a tweet to request questions for Capaldi. The first videos are already up on the Facebook page and a new one will be uploaded every day. It’s very telling to see that Peter Capaldi himself is involved in supporting this venture.

If you’re interested in news about where you can view Leonardo da Vinci’s artwork in the United States, stay tuned to my blog. In one case, you don’t have to wait for a special exhibition from overseas!

To follow the official Twitter page for this documentary, check out @daVinciMovie.

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