New “Doctor Who” Series 8 Trailer Promises “Darkness”

A new trailer came out yesterday for Series 8 of “Doctor Who”. The new series (or season, for American viewers such as myself) appears to take on a darker edge. Clara (Jenna Coleman) asks the Doctor, “Where are we going?” He (Peter Capaldi) replies, “Into darkness”. Mistakes can really add up when you’ve lived for about 2,000 years.

Executive producer and show writer Steven Moffat (“Sherlock”) seems to be moving in another direction this time around. Firstly, Peter Capaldi has been cast as the Doctor. He’s older than the previous actors in the newer seasons. Capaldi, unlike fellow Scotsman David Tennant, will be keeping his Scottish accent for the role. Are Scottish accents eventually going to supersede British ones in villainous roles? Just look back to “Maleficent”, which was rife with Scotsmen trying to kill the titular character (Angelina Jolie). And of course, who can forget Robert Carlyle as Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin?

Earlier this year, Capaldi was dubbed the “Rebel Time Lord”, which would be in keeping with the bleaker tone. The black suit and cape with the red accents certainly enable the Doctor to blend in with the shadowy corridors and rooms in the trailer. We get glimpses of the Time Lord with a serious expression on his face and quick soundbites of a Dalek voice. Indeed, a season of “Doctor Who” would not be complete (at least to Moffat) without the Daleks. The concept of a darker Doctor is not new. We saw it in previous seasons, when Rose suggested that the Doctor was no better than the Daleks at one point and again when the Doctor grappled with his decision not to use guns (to name a couple of examples). One hopes that we will see adversaries other than the Daleks, the Silence, and the Weeping Angels.

The new season does tease a few other details on what we can expect: a burning (and exploding?) Tardis console, some frightening encounters for Clara, Cybermen, and a dinosaur in London. Clara admits that she doesn’t know the Doctor anymore. When he asks her, “Am I a good man?”, she can only answer, “I … don’t know.” What will the Time Lord do to cast such doubt in her mind? Thankfully, the wait isn’t too long, as new episodes begin to air on August 23rd.

Fans in some areas can look forward to the Doctor Who World Tour, which makes 7 stops starting on August 7th and concluding on August 19th. The tour is quite an endeavor and coincides with the extensive promotion for the 50th anniversary of the beloved BBC series. The only stop in the United States is New York City.

“Doctor Who” is broadcast in the United States on BBC America. Season 8 premieres on August 23rd at 8|7c.

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Film News: Robert Carlyle Wraps Up ‘Barney Thomson’

Caution: This post contains spoilers on “The Legend of Barney Thomson” and “Once Upon a Time”.

I’ve been keeping a close eye on one of my favorite upcoming film projects: “The Legend of Barney Thomson”. The film comes from a book series by Douglas Lindsay, following the escapades of the titular character. A barber by trade, Barney continues to get demoted in status (as indicated by the position of your chair). His life changes unexpectedly when he accidentally becomes a serial killer.

Robert Carlyle (“Once Upon a Time”) directs and stars in the black comedy, which only took a month to shoot in Glasgow, Scotland. This week, Carlyle posted a tweet to announce the wrap up of filming:

Robert Carlyle Finishes 'Legend of Barney Thomson' Filming. Tweet belongs to @RobertCarlyle_

Robert Carlyle Finishes ‘Legend of Barney Thomson’ Filming. Tweet belongs to @robertcarlyle_

The brief shooting schedule is admirable, considering that the film is Carlyle’s first foray into directing a motion picture. There are a few reasons to get excited about “Barney Thomson”. Set pictures from JustJared.com give only a few tantalizing glimpses of what we can expect from the final product:

Emma Thompson Gets Older

Emma Thompson (“Saving Mr. Banks”) plays the role of Barney’s overbearing mother even though she is only two years older than Carlyle. If you look at the photos from the set, you can see that she has undergone a remarkable transformation into an older woman through the use of heavy blue eyeshadow and elaborate hair. The ensemble is further punctuated by her outfit: leopard prints and slacks.

Robert Carlyle: Not Mr. Gold

Robert Carlyle can be seen sporting a dark suit, which may seem to evoke Mr. Gold’s wardrobe penchant for suits. However, the suit probably is not Armani (Eduardo Castro’s costume choice in “Once Upon a Time”). In addition, Carlyle has chosen to comb his hair back, at least in the stills from JustJared.com.

Many fans may be used to seeing him with the looser hairstyle that he’s been sporting in recent roles such as Mr. Gold or Lachlan (“California Solo”). Oftentimes, changing ones physical appearance can serve as a reflection of ones character or what’s on the inside. Whether Carlyle uses the look for the entire film is a good question to ponder.

And Action!

In these scenes, Carlyle and Thompson appear to have good chemistry, an important factor for staying on a tight schedule. Admittedly, it’s hard to determine what news Barney gives his mother, but it’s terrible enough (in her eyes at least) to send her into hysterics. Thompson is stellar here with the quick change in emotions as she shifts from an upright stance, forcing Carlyle to hold her up.

Release Date of 2015?

Unfortunately, we won’t find out what’s bothering Barney’s mother until 2015 (unless you already read the book).

During the wait, you can still catch “Once Upon a Time”, which started filming season 4 on July 9th. Season 3 ended with quite a cliff hanger, taking Elsa to Storybrooke. She was previously locked in Rumplestiltskin’s room of dangerous and unpredictable magical items. She’ll probably have a vengeful plot against Rumple, who just married Belle (Emilie de Ravin). In addition, Regina (Lana Parilla) is upset with Emma (Jennifer Morrison) for bringing back Maid Marian. One can expect plenty of conflict when the show returns to ABC this fall.

Stay tuned to my blog for periodic updates on “Barney Thomson” and “Once Upon a Time”.

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UVA Center for Politics Celebrates 2014 Emmy Win with “Out of Order” Screening

On Friday night, local residents and students packed Nau Hall at the University of Virginia to view a special screening of Out of Order. The event was hosted by the UVa Center for Politics, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to promoting the importance of education and civic participation in government.

Attendees seemed excited to be at the screening, some arriving an hour early to secure good seats. Indeed, the celebratory mood was fitting; the Center’s most recent documentary, The Kennedy Half Century, won the the 2014 Emmy Award for Best Historical Documentary from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Out of Order won the same award in 2013. What better way to celebrate the occasion than to screen the 2013 winner, “Out of Order”?

Introductory remarks were made by Professor Larry J. Sabato, founder and director of the Center for Politics. In Out of Order, Representatives and Senators share their insights as to the extent of gridlock in Congress. Rather than focusing on the task of governing, the pressures of campaign fundraising, ideological extremism, and voting only on party lines often hinders attempts to iron out important compromises. Commentators like Bob Schieffer also lament the decline in camaraderie and a literal “crossing of the aisle” by Members; personal friendships and discussions across parties helped to foster a willingness to cooperate.

Americans continue to find themselves frustrated and cynical over the inability of Congress to handle routine business, such as producing a workable budget in a timely manner. Instead, we have been repeatedly subjected to hasty midnight deals and other temporary fixes such as raising the debt ceiling. It is unfortunate that the gridlock has not abated, producing the memorable 16-day shutdown in 2013.

Retired Sen. John Warner (R-VA), Professor Larry J. Sabato, and Sen. Mark Warner (R-VA)

Retired Sen. John Warner (R-VA), Professor Larry J. Sabato, and Sen. Mark Warner (R-VA) discuss politics and American history. Photo by Pat Cuadros.

Q&A with the “Warner Brothers”

Following the screening, Professor Sabato interviewed retired Sen. John Warner (R-VA) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) about their careers in politics. The older Warner reflected on the cooperative spirit in the earlier decades that he spent in the Senate, as well as his decision to step down in 2009 and support Mark Warner. Sabato was somewhat more forceful in his line of questioning towards the latter, to the amusement of many. He asked for names of Members who were willing to work toward compromise and those who were stalling the issues.

Then the audience was allowed to participate, putting forth some great questions. Should we change the workweeks Congress operates on? If Members no longer cross the aisle, why don’t we just get rid of the aisle so Senators and Representatives do not sit with their parties?

I asked the panel whether changes to Congress would come from within or from the states and populace. Professor Sabato responded that the changes would probably come from Congress itself “on the 12th of never”.

The best instruments of change are the people of this great nation. Part of that comes from being informed citizens: knowing how government works and what positions our elected officials take on the issues. Sabato points out that we are at fault as well because we cast the votes (or didn’t cast any votes, I would add) to elect the Congress we have today.

Congratulations to Professor Sabato and his hardworking staff at the Center for Politics! Will we see another Emmy win in 2015?

For more information about Out of Order and The Kennedy Half Century, check out the Center for Politics website.

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Fitz and the Tantrums Bring High Energy to the Jefferson Theater

We’re going in a different direction this week with a blog post on the music scene. Fitz and the Tantrums threw a spectacular show at the Jefferson Theater last Friday in Charlottesville, VA. Young and old fans alike filled the floor and the upper level, singing along with leads Michael Fitzpatrick (“Fitz” as he was endearing called by the crowd) and Noelle Scaggs. Relatively unknown in the “mainstream” music scene until recently, the band has been gaining traction with an expanding fan base. It has opened for big events such as the Sweetlife Festival, Bruno Mars’ tour, and even appearances on Today and Ellen Degeneres.

Fitz and the Tantrums concert. Photo by Pat Cuadros

Fitz and the Tantrums concert. Photo by Pat Cuadros

The opening act was Sleeper Agent, a rock band from Kentucky. I wanted to like Sleeper Agent, as I’ve heard singles such as “Haunting Me” on alternative stations like WNRN (91.9 FM). Quite a number of people in the audience were enjoying themselves, so perhaps the sound settings were a bit off for me. I thought last year’s opening act, Hunter Hunter, was much better.

Fitz Photo by Pat Cuadros

Fitz
Photo by Pat Cuadros

On this tour, the main prop for Fitz and the Tantrums is a large heart that changed colors with every song. The light patterns even mimicked flames as Fitz crooned out “House on Fire”. The heart comes from the cover of their latest album, “More Than Just a Dream”. They performed songs from that album, as well as their first one, “Pickin Up the Pieces”. If you’ve ever been to a Fitz and the Tantrums concert, you also know to expect a fantastic cover of the Eurythmics hit, “Sweet Dreams”. Another highlight of the evening was the solo by the saxophonist James King, who elicited cheering as he played a few notes from “Talk Dirty to Me”.

Fitz, standing right above your humble photographer (Pat Cuadros)

Fitz, standing right above your humble photographer (Pat Cuadros)

Dynamic stage lighting and a strobe light sequence were also incorporated, adding credence to the idea that elaborate and expensive stage setups are not necessary to make an incredible show. Rather, the strong soulful tunes and raw vocals carried the night (no auto tuners either) in songs like “Last Raindrop”, “Out of My League”, and “Moneygrabber”.

Noelle and Fitz Photo by Pat Cuadros

Noelle and Fitz
Photo by Pat Cuadros

So about that strobe light dance sequence near the end… well, check out this photo to see what I mean:

Fitz's Dance Solo Photo by Pat Cuadros

Fitz’s Dance Solo
Photo by Pat Cuadros

Fitz and the Tantrums deserve the growing attention and popularity. When they play live, it’s clear that they love to perform and they invest a lot of energy into connecting with their audiences. Their concerts are like parties, topped off at the end by a huge burst of confetti. Let’s hope they bring the party back to Charlottesville next year.

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Film News Recap: ‘Barney Thomson’ Filming and ‘Doctor Strange’ Casting Underway

After several years of planning, “The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson” is finally coming to fruition. The project is Robert Carlyle’s (“Once Upon a Time”) directorial debut. As I’ve mentioned before, Carlyle has directing experience in television and theater. Shooting began last week in Glasgow, Scotland, coinciding with his break from filming episodes for “Once Upon a Time”. In addition to directing the film, Carlyle plays the titular character, a Scottish barber who unexpectedly becomes a serial killer. He is joined by Emma Thompson (“Saving Mr. Banks”) and Ray Winstone (“Hugo”).

Also in recent news is speculation over casting for “Doctor Strange”. Riding the wave of Marvel Studios live-action films, “Doctor Strange” is about a neurosurgeon who turns sorcerer after a car crash damages the nerves in his hands. According to Deadline.com, director Scott Derrickson may be considering Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock”) and Tom Hardy (“The Dark Knight Rises”) for the main role. While both are strong candidates and deliver stellar performances, I prefer Cumberbatch. Weigh in with your vote in the comments section.

We can only wait in anticipation as more developments arise on both of these exciting stories!

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TV Review: ‘Quiet Minds’ Prove Formidable in Shocking ‘Once Upon a Time’

Caution: This review contains spoilers.

“Quiet Minds” was a Baelfire (Michael Raymond-James) and Belle (Emilie de Ravin) centered episode tonight on “Once Upon a Time”, bringing answers to some questions. How was Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) brought back? Where is Neal in Storybrooke? Why is Rumple a bit mad?

The episode begins with Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and the others laying out a plan of action to find Rumple to see if he can reveal the identity of the Wicked Witch (Rebecca Mader). They inform Belle of the developments, knowing that an escaped Rumple would probably seek her out for safety.

Meanwhile, Regina (Lana Parrilla) heads back to the Witch’s house in search of clues, an investigation in which Robin Hood (Sean McGuire) insists on laying a hand. The chemistry between the two characters is great and immediate, making one wonder just how close they became during the missing year. Regina becomes alarmed when she sees the tatoo on Robin’s wrist, realizing that he is her second chance at love, as foretold by Tinkerbell (Rose McIver, who has yet to emerge in this second half of season three).

Back in the missing year (Fairy Tale Land), Belle and Neal seek answers at the library in the Dark Castle. They receive help from Lumiere, the candlestick (yes, a hats off to “Beauty and the Beast”) who instructs them to find the key for the Vault of the Dark One. Unfortunately, Lumiere is caught in a lie by Belle and reveals that he was put in his waxen state by the Wicked Witch. Belle does not wish for Rumple to become a slave to the Wicked Witch, but a reckless Neal insists his father will find a loophole somewhere. Neal inserts the key, willing to pay the price to return to Emma and Henry.

In Storybrooke, Emma and Charming (Josh Dallas) find Rumple in the woods, where he is screaming about too many voices. Zelena sends a flying monkey after Rumple because for some reason, she is unable to summon him with the dagger. Rumple runs away from everyone.

Belle and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) are gathering some books when they are interrupted by Baelfire’s entrance. Neal eventually finds Emma to help her look for his dad. He collapses in agony, which coincides with Belle’s revelation to Emma over the phone: the price for resurrecting the Dark One is your life!

It’s an interesting twist, made even more exhilarating as the scene cuts back and forth to Rumple’s revival. Admittedly the CGI is sometimes weak on OUAT, but the effects were quite good here with Rumple emerging from the black gel-like substance. This reunion is not happy, as Neal lays dying. Additionally, the Wicked Witch has arrived, trying to take the dagger from Rumple.

Rumple cannot hold both the dagger and his son, so he relinquishes his grip on the dagger in order to merge bodies with Neal. (Thankfully, show writers did not make Neal out to be another flying monkey!) The price he pays is his madness. The Wicked Witch wastes no time in using her control over Rumple, ordering him to kill Belle; her first order of business is thwarted by Lumiere and Belle is able to escape.

In Storybrooke, Neal begs Emma to use magic to separate him from his father so they will be able to stop the Wicked Witch. His decision to employ magic in this case is altruistic, in a direct contrast to his selfishness in FTL. Reluctantly, she obeys and they exchange tearful goodbyes. Rumple reveals that the Witch is Zelena, sending Emma and Charming back to Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin).

Neal’s sacrifice seems to spur Emma out of her phase of keeping Henry (Jared Gilmore) in a bubble: their happy life in New York. She tells Henry that his father is dead and that he was a good man. It remains to be seen whether she will try to get Henry’s memories back. As Rumple’s grandson and Emma’s son, Henry’s potential with magic could be substantial. He could be of great help in the battle against the Wicked Witch, who appears to be giving Regina a hard time in next week’s showdown.

The dagger of the Dark One did not work in the beginning of the episode because Neal’s resurfacing protected Rumple. Unfortunately, the control is back, with Zelena putting Rumple back in his cell. There is hope for Rumple: he chose his adult son over the dagger without hesitation. He has no desire to help Zelena and Belle is still out there to fight for him. From previous seasons, a reunion between Belle and Rumple will probably have to wait a while, but true love has a chance to prevail.

“Once Upon a Time” airs Sunday evenings on ABC at 8|9c.

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Film Review: Muppets Fall Short in ‘Most Wanted’

“The Muppets” was a rousing success in 2011, bringing old and new fans to the franchise. At first glance, a sequel seems like a good idea. However, Jason Segel (“How I Met Your Mother”) did not return for “Muppets Most Wanted” and that creative spark is missing.

Fresh off of their successful opening, Kermit and friends wonder what they should do next, brainstorming ideas. Kermit picks Dominic Badguy’s (Ricky Gervais) proposal: a world tour. Meanwhile, Constantine, “the world’s most dangerous frog”, breaks out of the gulag in Siberia. It’s a classic case of mistaken identity when Constantine puts a mole on Kermit, sending the good frog to Siberia under the guard of Nadya (Tina Fey).

The World Tour is a front for Constantine and Dominic’s plans to steal the Crown Jewels, a trail that is closely (if not always correctly) pursued by Interpol Agent Jean Pierre Napolean (Ty Burrell of “Modern Family”) and CIA Agent Sam Eagle. The banter between the two law enforcement agents comprises some of the best gags in the film, especially the badge contest and the small car.

Even though the film will generate laughs, it falls short of the creativity and humor of the previous installments. “Most Wanted” seems loosely put together, with a number of celebrity cameos thrown in. Kermit is having a bad day at the beginning, a feeling that pokes through the darker tone of the plot. Miss Piggy is in a weird and terrifying Celine Dion phase. Finally, a number of Muppets are underused, which stems from a failure of the production team to balance the time between Muppets and humans.

With all of these factors taken together, it’s easy to see why a teen flick “Divergent” took the top spot at the box office this past weekend: a sizable $56 million compared to a paltry $16.5 million for “Muppets Most Wanted”. Certainly there’s a high demand for sequels, but make sure it’s a good one before sending it to theaters. I recommend you wait for “Most Wanted” to be released on DVD or the ABC Family channel. Better yet, go watch the classic Muppets in action.

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