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Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman Talk ‘Doctor Who’ at Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. [Repost]

Photo of Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman

Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman amuse the crowd during the Q&A, Awesome Con, Washington, D.C. Credit: Pat Cuadros

Doctor Who fans converged on Washington, D.C. for Awesome Con on earlier this month to see Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. The U.K. actors were interviewed by Kristen Page-Kirby, the Senior Arts Editor for the Washington Post Express. The half hour panel also featured a Q&A with the audience.

“I’m not sure how successfully Clara was able to wipe [the Doctor’s] mind,” Capaldi hinted about future episodes. He stopped mid-sentence before giving away anything else. Though Clara has left, it remains to be seen where these leftover pieces, if any, will take the Doctor. Read the rest of this entry »

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Alex Trebek and ‘Jeopardy!’ Come to DC for Power Players Week

Jeopardy! in Washington DC Promo Photo

Credit: ‘Jeopardy!’ and Sony Pictures.

For years, I’ve had the following item on my bucket list: “Attend a taping of Jeopardy!” Typically, you have to venture out to Culver City, CA, to see the famous game show. However, in the last five years, the iconic clue board, buzzers, and contestant stands have come twice to DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC.

The first instance was in 2012, when I witnessed CNN anchor Anderson Cooper beat NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell and economist Thomas L. Friedman. That same afternoon, I saw Fox News anchor Chris Wallace win against Dr. Mehmet Oz and BBC America’s Katty Kay. These contests were among several panels in the highly anticipated Power Players Week: when well-known individuals in media, news, and politics compete and win prize money for charity.

Three weeks ago, I returned to DAR for another Power Players Week taping. I don’t know how the filming transpires in California, but it’s a unique experience in our nation’s capital. For starters, reporters and camera crews milled around onstage for interviews until the contestants took their places. When the familiar opening credits finally rolled, Jimmy McGuire from the Clue Crew walked out to run the practice games instead of Alex Trebek.

The first match-up consisted of Louis C.K. (Horace and Pete), CNN’s Kate Bolduan (At This Hour), and the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart. I loved their chemistry on-stage as they laughed about the clues that they missed in the practice game. It was also amusing when a clue winner forgot that he or she needed to pick the next clue. Senator Al Franken, political analyst Ana Navarro, and legal analyst Sunny Hostin were not so enjoyable during their practice. There was something about the exchanges between Franken and Navarro that felt slightly off compared to the joviality and easygoing nature of first group.

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Alex Trebek. Credit: ‘Jeopardy!’ and Sony Pictures.

Alex Trebek, who turns 76 this year, managed the actual games and announced clues at a quick pace. However, the astonishing aspect of the taping is what he did off-script and off-camera. Trebek was very involved with the crew in catching errors; he reread clues for the sound team and pointed out dollar amounts to be removed from the board. “I love the power,” he joked. “Say it and it’s done!”

“We can chat or you guys can take naps,” he said to the audience when he strode to the front of the stage at the first commercial break. He would cast Kevin Kline, Johnny Depp, Kevin Spacey, or Betty White to play him in a biopic. “Get her out of here,” he quipped after a little girl asked who he knew from the Harry Potter films – yes, the late Alan Rickman. He looked out solemnly during another break and reminded everyone, “Canada is your neighbor.” Trebek would have made a brilliant and entertaining stand-up comedian.

Serious questions were also interesting. He spent the previous weekend rebuilding the washing machine. Dancing with the Stars reached out to him 3 times with invitations to compete. He’d like to have Kevin Spacey as a Jeopardy! contestant someday. He wisely refrained from weighing in on the 2016 Presidential election.

I can’t imagine what’s in store for Jeopardy! when Trebek eventually leaves the helm of what’s become the longest-running game show on American television. He’s been the host since 1984, before quite a few fans like me were even born. It’s truly amazing to see him in action with the crew, contestants, and audience. His current contract concludes with the 2017-2018 season. If that’s indeed the end, I highly recommend that you obtain tickets, which are free, for a taping session.

Be sure to check out Power Players Week when it airs the week of May 16.


This article was originally published on Blogcritics.org under the same title.

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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. Read the rest of this entry »

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Interview with Robert Carlyle: ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson’

Emily Alden, John Lenic, Robert Carlyle, and Richard Cowan

Emily Alden, John Lenic, Robert Carlyle, and Richard Cowan at the North American premiere of ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson.’ Photo: Pat Cuadros

In early December, I caught up with Robert Carlyle twice at the Whistler Film Festival (WFF) as a writer for Blogcritics. The Once Upon a Time actor was at the snowy ski resorts in Whistler, Canada, for the North American premiere of his directorial debut, The Legend of Barney Thomson. He mingled with screenwriter Richard Cowan as well as producers Emily Alden and John Lenic at the Red Carpet. Read the rest of this entry »

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Whistler Film Festival: Spotlight on Robert Carlyle

The Whistler Film Festival held a Spotlight on Robert Carlyle earlier this month in British Columbia, Canada. As part of the WFF Signature Series, the actor-director was presented with the Maverick Award. Carlyle’s directorial debut, The Legend of Barney Thomson, was screened later in the evening for its North American premiere.

Robert Carlyle

Robert Carlyle at the Whistler Film Festival. Photo: Pat Cuadros

The event included an intimate conversation with critic Jim Gordon of CTV, a major news network based in Vancouver. Much of the focus on Carlyle these days seems to be on his work with Once Upon a Time and the upcoming Trainspotting 2, projects that he himself appreciates. “One of the lovely things about Once Upon a Time is that [my family and I] can all sit and watch it on a Sunday night together. You can’t really do that with Trainspotting,” he remarked. Read the rest of this entry »

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TV Review: Clara and the Doctor ‘Face the Raven’

Joivan Wade, Peter Capaldi, and Jenna Coleman

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) want to clear Rigsy’s (Joivan Wade) name. Photo: BBC Worldwide Limited

Caution: This review contains spoilers.

The latest episode of Doctor Who takes the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) to the hidden streets of London, where aliens reside somewhat peacefully away from the world. Lording over them is none other than Me/Ashildr (Maisie Williams) as an enforcer. Sentencing for crimes is rather strict, resulting in a tattoo that counts down to zero. At zero, the Raven comes in for the kill.

Clara’s friend, Rigsy (Joivan Wade), has the tattoo on his neck, but he has no memory of killing a creature the day before. Clara and the Doctor seek to clear his name through their investigation. They speak with the victim’s son, who really turns out to be a girl (Naomi Ackie). The situation turns out to be a trap for the Doctor, laid by Ashildr and presently unknown enemies.

Ashildr promised her personal protection to Clara at the Doctor’s insistence. However, Clara gets Rigsy to transfer the death counter to her. It’s reminiscent of the Doctor’s willingness to take risks, like the time he took the 60 seconds on the Orient Express to figure out the mummy. However, Clara’s gamble backfires, since another one of Ashildr’s deals only extended to Rigsy.

The Doctor suffers major losses here: Clara’s death and surrendering his TARDIS key. It’s not clear who contracted Ashildr to go after the Doctor and teleport him away. The Daleks, Missy, or even the Gallifreyans could easily fit that role. If Clara’s echoes are around, there’s a chance that we’ll be seeing her again as well.

Unfortunately, season nine has been rather disappointing so far. The two-part format has been largely unnecessary with weak scripts and only a mere flicker of excitement by the end of the second part. Here, we’re back to the single episodes, but again, the stories are not particularly strong. There’s an opportunity in next week’s episode ‘Heaven Sent’ to retool things and get back on track.

One of the other larger questions for the series is the identity of the next companion. Ashildr is not a likely candidate, given that the Doctor wants her to stay out of his way. For now, River Song (Alex Kingston) is coming back for the Christmas Special, which should be interesting to see. There’s already an amusing promotional photo circulating through social media, depicting an uneasy River holding onto the Doctor’s shoulder. What trouble will they be taking on together and what sort of dynamic will their relationship have?

 

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‘Once Upon a Time’ Review: “The Bear and the Bow”

Caution: This review contains spoilers.

OUAT Promotional PhotoLast week, there were strong hints that Merida (Amy Manson), still under Emma’s control (Jennifer Morrison), would set a bulls-eye on Belle (Emilie de Ravin). Emma thinks that Rumple (Robert Carlyle) can become “a hero” and pull Excalibur out of the stone, but he’ll need some prompting. It’s the return of one of my favorite “versions” of Rumple; he’s regressed and gone full-on “coward” here. Training with Merida is not fruitful until she starts toying with him, bringing the teacup into the mix.

Merida’s relentless pursuit of freedom is contrasted with a flashback to Camelot a few weeks earlier, when Belle helps her rescue her brothers. Later episodes like this one are much better at weaving Merida’s history well with the Storybrooke characters. The rightful ruler wants Belle to brew a potion so she can terrify her enemies; Belle insists that Merida’s archery skills and bravery are really what matters, not magic. One of Merida’s greatest foe turns out to be her own guilt over her father’s death.

Flash forward to Storybrooke, Regina (Lana Parrilla), the Charmings (Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas), Robin (Sean McGuire), and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) want to talk to Merlin (Elliott Knight) using the Crimson Crown. Arthur (Liam Garrian) agrees to help, but he tries to burn the toadstool and shows everyone he is not to be trusted. Regina realizes that Henry (Jared Gilmore) can forge the link, since he was also chosen by Merlin. “We’re getting Merlin’s voicemail?” Regina says incredulously as a Star Wars-like hologram plays. Merlin tells them that they need help from someone called “Nimue.” What happened to him when his message cut off?

The other small thread revolves around Emma and Zelena. The “Dark Swan,” as Zelena hails her, breaks the witch out and offers junk food from Granny’s. Zelena refuses to deal with Emma about the Apprentice’s wand, saying that unlike Emma, she doesn’t mind being alone. She also insists that Emma would be a “bad influence” on her baby. Will Zelena change her mind later?

And the Chase is on!

Predictably, Belle splits from Charmings & Co. early on, upset that no one wants to rescue Rumple. Rumple destroys the teacup and uses a piece to cut his bonds for an escape. The build-up with the elevator door is a stroke of brilliance, leaving us in suspense as the gears outside move at a painstaking sequence. Belle is ready with the fire extinguisher. The doors open to reveal Rumple, who made it back into town through the mines. He may not have magic, but he’s still crafty.

The dynamic here is so expertly maneuvered by Carlyle and de Ravin. Belle has seen a scared Rumple before, but he’s always been hiding behind the trappings of power and his anger. I would argue (at least onscreen) that she’s never met a completely powerless and scared Rumple (as merely a man). It’s almost a little jarring for her as they first speak in the library because here before her is the “man behind the monster:” so utterly apologetic and focused on her. She’s claimed in the past that she’s always seen the man in him, but would she really accept that part of him now that it’s right there before her?

Such momentarily doubts can be dispensed with, because she reassures him that she believes he is a hero. Her declaration horrifies him as he realizes their reunion was part of Emma’s plan. After prompting from Belle, he finally crosses the street with her to go to the pawn shop. Merida bursts in with her bow for a fight, a scene amazingly shot with the arrow narrowly missing Belle through the door. Belle pulls the rug from under Merida to knock her out when she and Rumple are cornered.

Arguably, the most surprising scene is by the town line. Those two should just stay away from the town line, because usually something disastrous happens because Rumple is … well, the way he is. Rumple tries to convince Belle to leave town with him. Rumple insists that he’s a coward, that he broke his foot because he was afraid to die. I am not sure whether that’s the whole truth, since Rumplestiltskin does lie. The Bae arc and Rumple’s quest to get him back was such a huge part of the series. Whatever the case, here is he just focused on saving himself this particular evening? Rumple’s cowardice infuriates Belle, who leaves the Cadillac and walks toward Storybrooke.

This time, the potion Merida drinks is the real bear-changing brew. Bear Merida is obviously CGI, but the quality on that creature is quite good and utterly scary! Belle runs for it. (How does Rumple catch up with the limp? Belle appears to have gone quite a distance through the woods.) Rumple saves her life, throwing the magic dust into Bear Merida’s mouth to reverse the transformation. They return to his former prison, where he deals for Merida’s heart with Emma. He pulls out Excalibur and throws it to the ground. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, targeting Belle is a grave mistake for anyone trying to get to Rumple. That bite in Rumple is back as he warns Emma, “You’ve turned me into a hero” and he’s different than other heroes.

Overall, “Bear and the Bow” is long overdue in reuniting Rumple and Belle. There are some great Emma-Zelena moments. The weakest part of this story is King Arthur. Yes, we know that’s he’s not to be trusted. Merlin’s story, on the other hand, is more compelling, particularly with a previous Dark One yet to be revealed.

Whether Rumple will team up with Charming & Co. remains to be seen. He might do so at Belle’s prompting. For the moment, his strongest alliance is with Belle, but that future is uncertain. Other than tonight, we have yet to see sustained and open teamwork between the two. But one has to wonder, is Rumplestiltskin truly done with the darkness?

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