Posts Tagged Magic

Concert Review: The 2016 Summerfest Concert Series on the Plaza: Magic! and Other Popular Artists

Photo of Nasri

Nasri, lead vocalist for Magic! Credit: Pat Cuadros

The Plaza is still a relatively new addition to Tysons Corner Center, one of the premier shopping venues in Northern Virginia. However, the public square has quickly become a top spot in offering alternatives that are comparable, if not better, than the events within Washington, D.C. I’d like to spotlight the 2016 Summerfest Concert Series, which closed on July 31.

Summerfest is held annually in the summer at the Plaza, which partners with radio station 94.7 Fresh FM. It’s notable for bringing in top artists that are popular locally and across the U.S. This year’s series featured artists such as Shawn Hook, Rachel Platten, the Legwarmers, and even former American Idol contestants. The 2016 Summerfest closed with Billboard artist Ingrid Michaelson.

I arrived 15 minutes early on July 22 and I was able to stand close to the front of the throng by the stage. The winning act slated for that evening was Magic!, the Canadian reggae fusion band well known for the hit song “Rude.” They have a new single out called “Red Dress,” which is also getting airtime on the D.C. area radio stations. Read the rest of this entry »

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TV Review: Madness Reigns on ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell’ in “The Black Tower”

Marc Warren and Bertie Carvel

The Gentleman (Marc Warren) watches Jonathan Strange (Bertie Carvel) at work. Photo: JSMN Ltd, Matt Squire / BBC America.

Following “The Black Tower,” there’s only one more episode of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, a BBC series that depicts a Napoleonic Europe beset by magic. The penultimate installment is a jarring descent into madness. Norrell (Eddie Marsan), the older magician, is frustrated that he can’t locate Strange (Bertie Carvel), his former apprentice. He reluctantly pulls Drawlight (Vincent Franklin) out of jail to handle the search.

Strange is hiding in Venice, trying to “catch” madness, a mental state that enables one to see fairies. He meets the lovely Flora (Lucinda Dryzek), from whom he learns about an old lady that lives with cats and eats dead rodents. Yes, she’s mad. I would have preferred a less stomach-turning method for demonstrating his obsession with getting Arabella (Charlotte Riley) back. Strange succeeds and meets the Gentleman, a fairy king (Marc Warren) with a penchant for deals. His happiness fades upon realizing that Belle is alive, turning quickly to rage when he discovers the Gentleman’s involvement with Lady Pole’s (Alice Englert) resurrection.

Both Bertie Carvel and Marc Warren deserve praise for the way they play the long overdue confrontation in Strange’s rooms and the fairy kingdom of Lost-Hope. When they cast aside their measured politeness, the visible tension in their stances and faces almost makes you believe that invisible waves of magic are radiating from them. The Gentleman’s antagonism drips through his conversation with the Pole family’s butler, Stephen (Ariyon Bakare). It’s beautifully shot with strong light and shadow as the fairy king stands behind Stephen, who tries to dine with the oblivious Segundus (Edward Hogg) and Honeyfoot (Brian Pettifer).

“The Black Tower” is certainly the most entertaining and exhilarating chapter thus far. Developing plot threads are starting to converge, tied to the prophecy of the Raven King, another longtime adversary of the Gentleman. That story, as told by the street magician Vinculus (Paul Kaye), has hinted at disaster for Norrell and Strange.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell also addresses with maximum damage the question of John Segundus, an aspiring (but not practicing) magician: “Why is there no more magic done in England?” Strange and Norrell predict correctly that a revival of magic would bring about factions. It threatens to leave devastation in its wake, as shown by the Gentleman’s conjuring of a pillar of darkness around Strange.

Norrell is convinced that Strange’s “mad magic” can only lead to “catastrophe.” He’s equally at fault for employing the very dark magic that he regarded as disreputable in the first place. In addition, he succeeded at stirring the ire of Strange, culminating in a threat that the younger magician sends through the mirrors as a horde of ravens. Fluttering and pecking sounds create an eerie atmosphere before the ravens break Norrell’s mirrors, heightened by Eddie Marsan’s looks of perplexity and horror. Will the rift between Norrell and Strange continue or will they put aside their differences to take down the Gentleman together? Catch the finale on BBC America July 25 at 10 p.m. ET.

Article first published as ‘TV Review: ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell’ – “The Black Tower”‘ on Blogcritics.org.

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TV Review: Alliance Between ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell’ Fades in ‘All the Mirrors of the World’

“Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” always seemed to have a tenuous friendship at best in the television adaptation on BBC. It can only be as such when Gilbert Norrell (Eddie Marsan) insists on his way in terms of making magic “respectable.” In “All the Mirrors of the World,” the two gentlemen sever their ties, a move precipitated by the publication of Norrell’s book on magic.

Bertie Carvel as Jonathan Strange

Jonathan Strange (Bertie Carvel) Travels Through Mirrors. Photo: JSMN Ltd, Matt Squire / BBC America

The episode opens with the aftermath of Lady Pole’s (Alice Englert) attempt to assassinate Norrell, which resulted in Childermass (Enzo Cilenti) taking a bullet for his employer. Norrell is quite testy when the younger fellow awakens, asking why he performed magic on the street. He’s also a bit paranoid at this point, asking how Childermass even knew how to cast such a spell; he’s awfully incredulous when he learns that he showed that trick to Childermass.

Lady Pole is transported by Stephen (Ariyon Bakare) to the place of Mr. Segundus (Edward Hogg) and Mr. Honeyfoot (Brian Pettifer), which has been converted from a school of magic into a home for the mentally imbalanced. (The alternative is the notorious Bedlam, which Norrell wishes to avoid.) Surprisingly, Segundus is quite perceptive about magic, as he is able to see roses in the mouths of both Stephen and Lady Pole.

“Let’s All Be Kings”

Meanwhile, Strange (Bertie Carvel) and Norrell call upon the King of England, who sits about and plays the same notes on the piano all day. When Strange returns alone for another visit, he lights a candle and causes the Gentleman (Marc Warren) to be summoned; however, we already know that the King of Lost-Hope does not deign to reveal himself to the likes of Norrell. It’s an amazing scene as the king engages with a chilling (and seemingly one-sided) conversation with the Fairy king: topped off by his walk through the large mirror!

The mirror transports the old man to the English countryside, where Stephen is traveling. Stephen’s offer of assistance rapidly turns sour and riveting all at once as a sword appears in his hand and pulls him toward the king! The alternating close up and wide shots for this scene, combined with Bakare’s superb performance, are pivotal in making you feel like you’re being dragged along with Stephen. Strange retrieves the king just in time.

“Norrellite magic for the modern age”

It’s rather humorous when Drawlight (Vincent Franklin) swindles people out of their money by promising to have Jonathan Strange exact magical punishments on tiresome relatives. Strange, who figures out how to cross through mirrors, gives Drawlight a fright upon interrupting such a meeting. We also find out exactly what Norrell’s brand of magic encompasses: eschewing older magic such as that of the Raven King, the type that Jonathan champions.

Additionally, Norrell envisions himself as the authority on magic, even so much as to insist on having a “magical court” established so he could subject false magicians and charlatans like Drawlight to hanging. Thankfully, Sir Walter Pole (Samuel West) shoots down the idea as ludicrous. Disillusioned with his erstwhile friend, Strange prepares to return to a quiet life with Arabella (Charlotte Riley), writing a bad review of Norrell’s book. However, the young magician is called back to the front with the return of Napoleon.

Initially, Norrell laments the separation, but his quick turnaround with Lascelles (John Hefernan) really makes one question the authenticity of such a friendship. Indeed, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell have spent so much time apart rather than working together, much less even being on the same side. The next episode promises further complications, as both Norrell and the Gentleman plot to destroy Strange.

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Review: ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell’ Are Not Equals After All

Photo of Eddie Marsan and Marc Warren

Things aren’t over between Mr. Norrell (Eddie Marsan) and the Gentleman (Marc Warren). Photo: Matt Squire/BBC America

Lady Pole (Alice Englert) is quite alive after Mr. Norrell (Eddie Marsan) resurrected her last week, but she’s not enjoying her new life. After some initial excitement about dancing, she’s shut inside her own house because Sir Walter (Samuel West) and everyone else believe her to be mad. In actuality, she spends her nights dancing in the fairy world with the Gentleman. Stephen Black (Ariyon Bakare), a servant, is also under the same enchantment. It’s not clear yet how the Gentleman intends to make Stephen a king. Neither one is able to tell anyone the truth, but hopefully Norrell or Strange can figure out Lady Pole’s nonsense (which may eventually shift into solvable riddles).

Mr. Segundus (Edward Hogg) and Mr. Honeyfoot (Brian Pettifer) are intent on setting up a magic school, but they come across Jonathan (Bertie Carvel) and Arabella Strange (Charlotte Riley) in an old and overgrown house. They encourage Jonathan to learn magic from Norrell. It’s a joy to watch Norrell laugh and smile upon meeting Jonathan, especially when he’s excited about the younger fellow’s spell at the mirror. It’s a subtle trick that no one else can see, pointing to kinship that only magicians feel with one another. Marsan’s almost child-like glee is not overdone either.

Friends or Enemies?

The budding relationship is thrown on the rocks right away when Jonathan wants to read Norrell’s books. Yes, the books Norrell has in numerous shelves. His tall step ladder is quite amusing and befitting of the importance he bestows upon his beloved treasures. We also find that the two magicians couldn’t be more different, as Jonathan draws heavily from instinct. His huge display with the sand horses rights a ship trapped by Norrell’s invisible barriers: spectacles are certainly key in magic. Drawlight (Vincent Franklin) and Lascelles (John Heffernan) are also jealous of the newcomer, prompting Norrell to outbid Arabella on magic books that Jonathan really wanted. An all-out duel over books when Jonathan returns? I wouldn’t put it past Norrell to put forth the challenge.

The Gentleman Rules the Evening … and More?

The fairy world is striking, yet we’re not fully introduced to it until nearly two-thirds of the way through the episode. Rather, at the beginning, the frame focuses on point-of-view and close-up shots of Stephen. The heavy breathing, creaking noises, and blurring through the lens all combine to further conjure this sense that we’re being pulled to that chamber with him. The house bells take on an added intensity when we hear them and see the unease of Stephen and Lady Pole in those angled overhead shots. It coalesces into the haunting frenzy in the fairy ballroom with the fairies: the nights that comprise “half” of Lady Pole’s life. Toby Haynes, known for his directing on “Sherlock,” delivers top quality in these scenes.

Marc Warren is fantastic when he appears in a scene, rooting you to the spot with his ever constant gaze. The echoing and sometimes raspy quality of his voice also does much to make him sinister. His silence is ominous as well, such as the exchange of glares between Norrell and the Gentleman at the auction. Taken together with his costume (the Peter Pan shirt is gone for now), Warren’s performance here is much more enjoyable than his time as Rochefort on “The Musketeers.”

What’s up for next week? Here’s a teaser quote from the episode preview: “A magician is not an easy thing to kill.” What could the Gentleman be planning? Is Arabella next on his invitation list for dancing?

“Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” airs on Saturday evenings at 10|9c on BBC America.

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Magic Meets the Napoleonic Wars in ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell’

“Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell,” Susanna Clarke’s historical fantasy, premieres tonight on BBC America. However, you may have noticed that the first episode, “The Friends of English Magic,” has been up on the BBC America site since earlier in the week. The series takes a look at the Napoleonic Wars, but not in the traditional vein of a historical drama. We often look back at history and ask how things might have been if we had that additional piece of technology earlier. But what about magic? Don’t mistake “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” for a Napoleonic Harry Potter. Instead, it already foreshadows the dark side of magic and to quote from a popular drama, “All magic comes with a price.” (Extra points if you know the reference.)

Eddie Marsan and Marc Warren in the television adaptation of "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell." Photo: Matt Squire/BBC America

Eddie Marsan and Marc Warren in the television adaptation of “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.” Photo: Matt Squire/BBC America

The first episode opens with a frustrated Mr. Segundus (Edward Hogg), a young man who attempts simple spells and wants to know why magic is no longer done in England. His curiosity is shared only by one member of a magician’s society in York, a Mr. Honeyfoot (Brian Pettfer from the upcoming “The Legend of Barney Thomson”). Segundus is annoyed that the books he places on hold at the local bookshop are being purchased by a Mr. Norrell. The setup is reminiscent of 18th and 19th century fiction, whereby a secondary character’s curiosity is the device used to hook readers in (or viewers in this case). Read the rest of this entry »

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TV Review: ‘Once Upon a Time’ Brings Flying Monkeys and a New Villain

Caution: This review contains spoilers.

The wait was finally over with the return of “Once Upon a Time” last night. Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), and the others arrive back in Fairy Tale Land as Phillip (Julian Morris) and Aurora (Sarah Bolger) are about to have lunch.

Aurora insists to Phillip that “she” must be told as they watch the former Storybrooke residents depart for Regina’s castle. Along the way, Regina (Lana Parrilla) tries to bury her own heart in the Enchanted Forest to rid herself of her despair over leaving Henry. She puts her heart back into her chest after a pep talk from Snow. However, they are attacked by a flying monkey, a big clue about who “she” is. They are saved by Robin Hood (Sean Maguire), whom Tinker Bell revealed (to viewers) in a previous episode as Regina’s true love after Daniel.

Skip to a year later in our world, where Emma Swann (Jennifer Morrison) is happy with her son, Henry (Jared Gilmore). She also has a boyfriend named Walsh (Christopher Gorham), who pops the question on her. Emma is reluctant to accept, despite Henry’s reassurances. Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) also disrupts her tranquil life, insisting that she come back to Storybrooke to save her family. Of course, she thinks he is a crazy stalker until she goes to Neal’s apartment develops the film from Henry’s camera. She drinks a memory potion and agrees to go back to Storybrooke, which came back through a new curse.

While the pacing was slightly uneven, “New York City Serenade” really delivered on a number of key points. It bodes well for upcoming episodes in this second half of season three. It’s a stark contrast to the first half of the season, while still strong in twists and excitement, took some time to develop as a story arc. Let’s take a look at a few tantalizing tidbits from last night:

Flying monkeys make terrible boyfriends. It was sheer genius for executive producers Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis to throw in this twist on flying monkeys. Firstly, it was much easier not to feel sorry for Walsh when he became upset with Emma for rejecting his proposal and for drinking the memory potion. Shape shifting itself is not new; Cora used it in season two. However, it is new for flying monkeys, who only flew around and grabbed people (and little dogs) in the old stories and films. What other weapons does the Wicked Witch have at her disposal?

Henry doesn’t believe in magic. It was amusing to see Henry as a “normal” kid: playing video games, sleeping over at a friend’s place, and asking Emma for his permission slip for a field trip. Unfortunately, there was only one dose of the memory potion, which flips the mother-son relationship from the first season. In the upcoming episode(s), Emma faces the challenge of convincing Henry that magic is real … while trying to save Storybrooke again.

Rumple may return. Belle (Emilie de Ravin) tells Baelfire (Michael Raymond-James) that they never saw Rumple’s dagger which means there may be a way to bring him back. In an earlier post, I speculated that Rumple would be brought back because he is one of the most intriguing characters in the show. One never knows what to expect when he is the central focus of a plot line because of the brilliant writers as well as Robert Carlyle’s performance in the role. When Rumple comes back, it will be interesting to see how he interacts with the Wicked Witch of the West (Rebecca Mader). Will he side with Regina, the Wicked Witch, or stay neutral?

In the preview for upcoming episodes, there is a hooded figure who could be another new villain. Could it be Rumple? If it’s not Rumple, what sorts of melees will we see among the villains?

“She may be the evil queen but I’m wicked and wicked always wins.” Apparently, “wicked” and “evil” are not synonyms. The Wicked Witch seems to think that “wicked” trumps “evil”. Why did she need some of Regina’s blood? In any case, Regina is ready for a fight.

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

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