Wil Wheaton Pushes STEAM at the USA Science & Engineering Festival

Wil Wheaton
Wil Wheaton at the USA Science & Engineering Festival. Credit: Pat Cuadros

Thousands converged upon Washington, DC, last weekend for the fourth USA Science & Engineering Festival. The Festival is regarded as the largest STEM education event in the country, with family-friendly demonstrations and talks. They focus on guiding young people with interests in the career fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In addition to educators and professional associations, well-known scientists and even entertainers offer their insights on these exciting opportunities.

Actor and blogger Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation; Big Bang Theory) was one of the celebrity guests at hand for the festivities this year. On Sunday morning, he introduced the winners of the Generation Nano Awards on behalf of the National Science Foundation and the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The competition required high school students to imagine their own superheroes with powers emerging out of nanotechnology. With the angle on comic books and visual design, it was fitting that legendary comic-book writer Stan Lee joined Wil Wheaton (virtually) to extend his congratulatory sentiments to the winners. Continue reading “Wil Wheaton Pushes STEAM at the USA Science & Engineering Festival”


Interview: Joseph J. Ellis Discusses ‘The Quartet’ and Thomas Jefferson at the National Book Festival

Joseph J. Ellis emphasizes that establishing a national government took two American revolutions, not one.

The celebratory atmosphere of the 2015 National Book Festival was nicely encapsulated by the theme, “I cannot live without books.” These words come from Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States. In addition to the fifteenth anniversary of the Festival, readers of all ages were enthusiastic about the 200th anniversary of a very significant book sale. Back in 1815, Jefferson sold his collection of books for $23,950 to the Library of Congress.

It would not have been a complete day without the presence of one of the foremost scholars on Thomas Jefferson. Of course, I am referring to Joseph J. Ellis, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Founding Brothers. Ellis, a longtime professor of American history, was also in Washington, DC, to promote his new book, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789. His latest historical analysis addresses the interim period between the end of the Revolutionary War and the beginnings of American government under the presidency of George Washington.

Joseph Ellis and Pat Cuadros
Revisiting the Founding Fathers, research tactics, and Thomas Jefferson with Joseph J. Ellis

Continue reading “Interview: Joseph J. Ellis Discusses ‘The Quartet’ and Thomas Jefferson at the National Book Festival”

Film News: Tom Holland Discusses the 30th Anniversary of ‘Fright Night’

Tom Holland explains the risks associated with making a vampire film when slashers were the rage. His gamble worked.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the theatrical release of Fright Night (1985). The iconic horror film tells the story of high school student Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), who is convinced his neighbor (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire. It was screened on Saturday evening during the second annual Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival. Held at the Muvico Theater in Rosemont, Illinois, the festival runs in conjunction with Wizard World Comic Con. Continue reading “Film News: Tom Holland Discusses the 30th Anniversary of ‘Fright Night’”

Benedict Cumberbatch and Ian McKellen Strike Similar Poses for ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Mr. Holmes’ Promos

The new “Sherlock” photo coincides with San Diego Comic Con announcements and looks familiar.

Earlier this week, the BBC released an official promotional photo for their hit series, “Sherlock.” There’s still a few months to go before fans across the world can enjoy the Victorian special. However, the anticipation is still running strong, particularly with Steven Moffat on the scene for San Diego Comic Con. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the co-creator and writer admitted that he would be on board with crossing “Sherlock” with “Doctor Who.”

The new photo, as released on Twitter, depicts Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson in Victorian dress. Radio Times has a nice piece that dissects all the possible clues from their outfits. In the same EW interview, Moffat insists that he doesn’t need to explain the shift from modern London to Victorian London. In that sense, it’s almost like he’s doing a fan fiction number on his own work. Just look at any site with fan fiction: a number of writers don’t give reasons for the alternate universes or settings that they craft for their favorite characters. So why should we expect the same from Team “Sherlock”? It’s also a roundabout way of getting back to the Conan Doyle Canon, at least in attire and culture, which is already set in the Victorian era.

Promo Photos for "Sherlock" and "Mr. Holmes"
Official tweets with awfully similar photos, sans Watson, of course.

July is a big month for Sherlock Holmes media. “Mr. Holmes,” the feature film starring Ian McKellen, hits US theaters on July 17th. Ian McKellen posted a promotional photo of himself as the celebrated detective last month. Let’s put that photo next to one of Cumberbatch and Freeman. Unfortunately, we’ll have to leave Watson out of the picture (excuse the wordplay) for the comparison. Notice that Cumberbatch and McKellen mirror each other quite nicely in their photos. McKellen pivots slightly more in his armchair but the similarity remains striking, nonetheless!

While you’re waiting for the “Sherlock” special, be sure to check out “Mr. Holmes” in theaters next week.

Looking Ahead to San Diego Comic-Con: Thursday Edition

Comic-Con will be in full swing come Thursday, July 9. If you were fortunate to snag a badge to the biggest convention in San Diego, which panels should you attend? Let’s run through a few must-sees:

“Hand of God”

In this Amazon series, Ron Perlman (“Sons of Anarchy,” “Hellboy”) plays a corrupt judge who may be “in the midst of a religious epiphany” after a family tragedy. It’s now a question of whether he’ll continue along the same course or try to do the right thing. It’s a full panel with Perlman, Ben Watkins (“Burn Notice”), Garret Dilahunt (“Justified”), Andre Royo (“Happyish”), Alona Tal (“Supernatural”), Julian Morris (“Pretty Little Liars”), Emayatzy Corinealdi (“Criminal Minds”), and Elizabeth McLaughlin (“Betrayal”). From the trailer, could it potentially fill the void left by the cancellation of Kelsey Grammar’s “Boss” a while ago?

“The Player” Sneak Peek and Q&A

This new NBC drama premieres in the fall. It’s no surprise that the high stakes chase after criminals feels somewhat like “The Blacklist,” because the same executive producers are on the project. Philip Winchester plays successful security tester and agent Alex Kane, whose life is turned upside down by the death of his wife. His adversary and quasi new employer is the enigmatic and smooth Mr. Johnson, portrayed by Wesley Snipes. Catch this sneak peek and the ensuing discussion!

“Doctor Who” Q&A The stars of “Doctor Who” are coming to Comic-Con! It’ll be Peter Capaldi’s first appearance at SDCC this summer. He’ll be there along with Jenna Coleman, Michelle Gomez, and Steven Moffat. Missy is due back for Season 9, but I wouldn’t expect Steven Moffat to be forthcoming with spoilers. Will Peter Capaldi share any surprising facts and possibly outdo last year’s reveal about how he turned down a “Doctor Who” audition years ago?


Later on Thursday afternoon, Steven Moffat will address another segment of the BBC America fan base: the “Sherlock” fans! Will there be any more light shed upon the Victorian special? Also joining him are executive producer Sue Vertue and Rupert Graves, who plays DI Greg Lestrade.

While there’s a plethora of things to do at San Diego Comic-Con, you’ll miss out if you don’t put these panels as a priority. For a complete list of Thursday’s programming, visit the SDCC website. Check back soon and we’ll run through Friday’s program schedule.

‘Once Upon a Time’ Actresses Kristin Bauer, Merrin Dungey, and Victoria Smurfit Are More About Fun Than Darkness

Is True Love going to win out in the end? Even more pressing, will Maleficent replace Ruby at Granny’s Diner after all?

Caution: Spoilers about the fourth season of “Once Upon a Time.”

Awesome Con brought Kristin Bauer, Merrin Dungey, and Victoria Smurfit to Washington, D.C. this past weekend. The three actresses wreaked quite a bit of havoc in Storybrooke and Fairy Tale Land in the latest season of “Once Upon a Time” as Maleficent, Ursula, and Cruella de Vil. Yet you’re more likely to count these three women among the most amiable professionals in the entertainment industry. So how is it that they are able to play dark roles with such talent?

Laughs Abound as Count Gore De Vol Interviews Kristin Bauer, Merrin Dungey and Victoria Smurfit at Awesome Con. Photo: Pat Cuadros
Laughs Abound as Count Gore De Vol Interviews Kristin Bauer, Merrin Dungey and Victoria Smurfit at Awesome Con. Photo: Pat Cuadros

“It’s a freeing experience,” Victoria Smurfit chimes in, leaning toward one of the two microphones at the table. She sports long blond hair, a much different look than that of the number one enemy of dogs and dog lovers everywhere, Cruella de Vil.  Continue reading “‘Once Upon a Time’ Actresses Kristin Bauer, Merrin Dungey, and Victoria Smurfit Are More About Fun Than Darkness”

Awesome Con Recap: Alex Kingston Teases Potential Return to ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Arrow’

“I see a Weeping Angel in one of the lines!” Kingston exclaimed. She later turned down a “hug of apology” from that Weeping Angel.

Alex Kingston's Q&A takes top spot on my list of best panels at Awesome Con. Photo: Pat Cuadros
Alex Kingston’s Q&A takes top spot on my list of best panels at Awesome Con. Photo: Pat Cuadros

(6/2/15 Update: Sharper Photo from Robbie Hott)

There’s nothing more alarming than a schedule change when you’re already at a convention. “Doctor Who” fans know the feeling all too well, as Awesome Con had recently cancelled the Friday evening “Pond Family Reunion.” Imagine my consternation when a good friend caught up to me at the beginning of what I believed to be the Arthur Darvill line.

“Darvill is at 2:30,” he told me.

“What?” I said.

“They switched Alex Kingston and Arthur Darvill’s time slots on the app. Both are still ‘Doctor Who’ panels, he added.”

Alex Kingston shares non-spoilers, hair advice, and great stories. Photo: Pat Cuadros
Alex Kingston shares non-spoilers, hair advice, and great stories. Photo: Pat Cuadros

That was good news indeed, unless for some reason, you don’t particularly like either one of the actors. Kingston was already famous in the 1990s for her portrayal of Dr. Elizabeth Corday in the hit drama series, “ER.” More recently, she’s played River Song on “Doctor Who” and Dinah Lance in “Arrow.” The panel was aptly moderated by Count Gore de Vol, who referred to the celebrated actress creatively as the “more important doctor:” a reference to her character’s archaeology degree. Save for a couple of questions from the Count, the entire hour was dedicated to inquiries from the audience, complete with fezzes and bow ties. Continue reading “Awesome Con Recap: Alex Kingston Teases Potential Return to ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Arrow’”