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Houdini posters remade for TV mini-series, courtesy of digital hocus pocus

Written by Maria Sciullo on .

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Harry Houdini is the subject of a new two-part TV mini-series airing on History September 1-2. In popular culture, he's made appearances in several feature films and television specials, not to mention a stint on Broadway in the musical "Ragtime."2HB corrrrrrrect after 271x380

Thanks to some digital sleight-of-hand, Academy Award-winner Adrien Brody -- who stars in the History event -- has been re-imagined in a series of classic Houdini posters. Here are two of them.

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Welcome to The Capaldi Era of 'Doctor Who'

Written by Sharon Eberson on .

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The latest season of "Doctor Who" wastes no time in getting to the point, but doesn't get right to the new face of the regenerated Doctor in the Season 8 premiere episode (Saturday, Aug. 23, at 8 p.m., with pre- and post-shows hosted by Chris Hardwick). And in this episode, appearances — what they reveal and what they hide — are everything.

The loyal trio of the reptilian Vastra, human Jenny Flint and Sontaran commander Strax have evolved into the Scooby-Whos (sorry, couldn't resist) of the series. They are ready and able to lend a hand, a ninja blade, whatever the Doctor orders when he happens to be in distress. They are front and center often for an episode that introduces a new Doctor, in this case Peter Capaldi (above) the 12th Doctor by most counts. He's lean and green at being a Time Lord, until the effects of regeneration wear off. His look reads a gray David Copperfield, and he possesses the proper restless, relentless energy of a Time Lord.

While he seems to fill the bill of quirkiness and derring-do required of the Doctor, this jury of one is still out on The Capaldi Era — it took me a full season to get past the loss of David Tennant and Matt Smith's chin before I warmed to the new guy, and I still miss Christopher Eccleston. The latter revived the now 50-year-old franchise about an alien Time Lord who travels in a TARDIS (a time machine that looks like a UK police box) and picks up human companions to share his adventures.

ClaraDW20140821Companion Clara (Jenna Coleman, left), the Impossible Girl whose history was revealed toward the end of last season, gets a bit of a raw deal here. She is not immediately accepting of this new Doctor, with his gray hair and lined face, and gets called out on it a number of times.

Clara and the Doctor are deposited in Victorian London and are immediately scooped up by the Doctor's merry band of followers: Vastra (Neve McIntosh) as the voice of reason, Jenny (Catrin Stewart) as her devoted human wife and Strax (Dan Starkey) as comic relief. The first five minutes of the episode is devoted to Strax, with his twisted understanding of humans and genders, giving a recap of the Doctors' regenerations through the years.

He speaks for us all — well, me — when addressing the concept of this latest regeneration: "The number of Doctors gets a little trickier later on."

And did I mention the T-rex in the Thames?

Here's the thing about this episode to be appreciated by fans. tThis episode played out as Steven Moffat's check list of addressing fan concerns. Aging the Doctor from 20-something Smith to 50-something Capaldi? Check. Where do the new looks come from when the Doctor regenerates? Check. Is companion Clara just a pretty face who only had eyes for her much younger Doctor? Check.

My favorite line belongs to Vastra, though, who says when she's confronted with a newspaper page filled with classified ads, "Advertisements, yes, so many. It's a distressing modern trend." If only.

The story itself seems to be a concept evolved from Moffat's other BBC series, "Sherlock." Vastra even says, "The game's afoot" at one point. The mystery isn't how the T-rex got there — it swallowed the TARDIS and brought the Doctor and Clara to Victorian London. The T-rex meets his demise in a manner seen in other recent sudden deaths, sparking a creepy mystery and a nasty new villain for the Scoobies and you know Who.

There's a not-so-surprising cameo toward the end of the episode that helps in this transition process to another new face in the "Doctor Who" canon, and a last-scene reveal that moves the story forward.

Chris Hardwick, aka The Nerdist, who will be in town a week from Saturday with the Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival, was naturally delighted to talk about this new incarnation of the Doctor when we spoke recently. He summed up the great expectations of "Doctor Who" fans this way:

"I'm really excited because I think Capaldi is such an interesting choice and will take the Doctor in different places than he's been before. I'm hosting this little wraparound show for the premiere on the 23rd of August. I love the show because I think it's a metaphor for life, because you lose the things you love and there's always a place in your heart for those things and those people but then you get to discover new people and new experiences. It's kind of like when Tennant turned into Matt Smith. I still loved Tennant but then I grew to love Matt Smith. And now, hopefully, I'll get to love Capaldi. It's just kind of nice that the show keeps reinventing itself. I don't know how long they are going to do it, but hopefully forever."

Photo credits: @BBC/BBC

 

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We're off to see the Wizard... 75 years later

Written by Maria Sciullo on .

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Someone in our household wanted to watch "The Wizard of Oz" on VHS just about every day when she was little. So we know a bit about the MGM classic that is celebrating its 75th anniversary this weekend... oh yes, we do.

Various media sites are running those "(fill in a number) things you didn't know about "The Wizard of Oz," and for the most part, they are worth reading. Reminisce magazine has a particularly good feature with some nice images. 

Here's one of my own. When Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch sends the flying monkeys to harass Dorothy and her friends, she tells them she's sent an insect ahead to soften them up. It's a reference to a song and dance number that didn't make the final cut, called "The Jitterbug."

Although MGM's $2.7 million big film of 1939 had a splashy Hollywood premiere on August 15, then one in New York City several days later (with star Judy Garland performing), it actually debuted in the tiny Strand Theatre in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin on August 12.

There are several theories to this, but the most common: the studio was eager to field test the movie in what it considered America's heartland. Some sources claim there was a similar early showing in Massachusetts as well.

Director Victor Fleming's film was initially a box-office dud. According to Box Office Mojo, it has since made about $23 million worldwide, but it's found a loving home on television. Broadcast in 1956 for the first time, it became a stand-alone TV event that ran on commercial TV until 1991. Those of a certain age will remember families gathering to watch, and how there was always a commercial break just after the Cowardly Lion freaked and jumped out the window in the Emerald City.

Today of course, the Wizard of Oz can be watched in any number of DVD versions, even rented on iTunes. Skipping down the yellow brick road on your iPhone? Now that is a horse of a different color.

 

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The first time I heard of Robin Williams was before 'Happy Days'

Written by Sharon Eberson on .

My first thought when my son Josh called tonight to ask if I'd heard the heartbreaking news about Robin Williams' death:

My high school friend and comedian Barry Sobel calling to say I had to watch "Happy Days" to see this guy who was going to appear as an alien -- Robin Williams' first appearance as Mork. Barry had seen Robin Williams in California clubs and said he was the most talented comedian ever.

I will try to keep remembering that first laugh at the sight of him and all the laughs that followed. I think I have to break out my Comic Relief T-shirt ...

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Geek Girls' Adventures at the Steel City Con

Written by Sharon Eberson and Maria Sciullo on .

 

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SHARON: Greetings from the Steel City Con, the historically toys and collectibles show that continues to grow in pop-culture scope at the Monroeville Convention Center. Maria Sciullo (you'll be hearing from her soon) and I walked floor today looking not just for the best deal on a Rocket Raccoon or chain mail armor for a dog or cat, but to check out the celebs and the cosplayers and just mingle with fellow geeks.

Maria and I have compiled some scenes from the experience. That's Joshua joining us for a "Live Long and Prosper" moment  and the artist is Ryan Dawson, whose renderings of characters from "Frozen" seemed to be selling well (I preferred the guys from "Sherlock," myself). The celebs we saw signing autographs included LeVar Burton, Penny Marshall, Dean "Superman" Cain (right) and Butch "Eddie Munster" (all pictured here).

Steel City Con continues tomorrow with a costume contest and will be back in December.

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MARIA: Steel City Con: where your dreams of taking a selfie with the Batmobile come true.

My trek (ha ha, I wrote "Trek") was more about searching for action figures than seeing the celebs at the autograph tables. That said, it was nice to finally meet special make-up effects icon Tom Savini face to face (left).

 
(Savini, by the by, had a cameo as himself in "The Simpsons' " well-regarded "Worst Episode Ever.")
 
There were plenty of would-be Comic Book Guys at the Monroeville Convention Center Saturday.
 
As the day went on, the crowds increased and it became increasingly difficult to scour the aisles without literally bumping into some manner of space man or beast. Not that there's anything wrong with that, many of the outfits were very impressive.
 
The ones that weren't, well, Etsy charm counts for a lot, too. 
 
Check out a PG Video of the goings-on Saturday at www.post-gazette.com.

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