Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Locally filmed PBS series announces cast

Keep an eye out for Lumbergh from "Office Space."

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 3:30 PM

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Nurse Mary Phinney and Josh Radnor as Jedediah Foster. Courtesy of Antony Platt/PBS
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Nurse Mary Phinney and Josh Radnor as Jedediah Foster. Courtesy of Antony Platt/PBS

Ummm, yeahhh.

The cast was announced today for "Mercy Street," the locally filming Civil War drama television series by PBS. The anticipated series, set in a Union-occupied hospital in Alexandria, will air on Sunday night in winter 2016, same night as the final season of "Downton Abbey."

The show, executive produced by Ridley Scott, David Zucker and Lisa Q. Wolfinger, has the potential to be better than most period series. I say this not just because one of the cast stars is Gary Cole, who you may recognize as the awful boss Lumbergh in "Office Space," or more recently, the hilarious Kent Davidson on HBO's "Veep."

Other reasons to get excited: The show also has some fine directors, including Roxann Dawson ("Treme") and Jeremy Webb ("Masters of Sex" "Downton Abbey") who should bode well for the production, which is being shot in the Richmond and Petersburg areas.

But back to poor Gary Cole. Everywhere he goes, people must say, "Uhm, yeaaahhhh, okay, greaaat" to him in that same, smug way. He is probably sick to death of TPS report jokes by waitstaff. So cut him a break out there.

Oh, and I'm already hearing eyewitness reports from the ladies that actor Josh Radnor is a cute-man walking. Really, after "Lincoln" you'd think that we'd be a little used to the whole celeb thing by now. To quote Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, "Radnor, you're no Daniel Day-Lewis, or Rob Lowe, or James Spader, or John Hawkes, or . . . (you get the picture)."

The rest of the cast, per the press release:

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“The Returned,” “Smashed,” The Spectacular Now) as Nurse Mary Phinney, a feisty New Englander and widow who is a newcomer at Mansion House Hospital.

Josh Radnor (“How I Met Your Mother,” Liberal Arts, Broadway’s Disgraced) as Jedediah Foster, the civilian contract surgeon who grew up in a privileged Southern slave-owning household as the son of a wealthy Maryland landowner.

Peter Gerety ("Syriana," "Charlie Wilson’s War," "Flight," "God’s Pocket," “The Wire,” “Prime Suspect”) as Dr. Alfred Summers, chief surgeon at Mansion House, who has risen to the rank of major by virtue of his age, not skill.

Norbert Leo Butz (“Bloodline”) as Dr. Byron Hale, an old-school army surgeon who lives life by the book. While Hale has an eye for the nurses, he has an ongoing relationship with Nurse Anne Reading.

McKinley Belcher III (“Power,” “Madam Secretary,” “Chicago PD,” “Show Me A Hero”) as Samuel Diggs, a black laborer harboring a secret knowledge and ability in medicine, which he learned as a boy servant.

Shalita Grant (“NCIS: New Orleans,” “Bones”) as Aurelia Johnson, a beautiful, stoical ‘contraband’ working as a laundress at the hospital, and trying to bury her past.

Newcomer Hannah James as Emma Green, an entitled Southern young woman who volunteers as a nurse at Mansion House Hospital, the facility established on the site of her family’s luxury hotel.

Cherry Jones (“24”), guest star, as Dorothea Dix, known as “Miss Dix,” the formidable superintendent of Union Army nurses.

Also starring in MERCY STREET are Jack Falahee (“How to Get Away With Murder”) as Frank Stringfellow; AnnaSophia Robb (“The Carrie Diaries,” The Way, Way Back, Bridge to Terabithia) as Alice Green; Cameron Monaghan (“Shameless”) as Tom Fairfax; Donna Murphy (“Resurrection,” “Hindsight,” Broadway’s "Passion," "The King and I") as Jane Green; Tara Summers (“Stalker,” “Rake,” “Boston Legal”) as Anne Hastings; L. Scott Caldwell (“Southland,” “Lost,” “ER,” The Fugitive) as Belinda; Suzanne Bertish (“Rome”) as Matron Brannan; Wade Williams (“Prison Break,” Draft Day) as Silas Bullen; Luke Macfarlane (“Brothers and Sisters,” “Over There”) as Chaplain Hopkins; and up-and-coming actor Brad Koed as James Green, Jr.

Reppin from the Heart

Local rapper Reppa Ton hopes to contribute positivity with new track.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 3:00 PM

Local rapper Reppa Ton plans to release his debut album, "Forever Changes" this summer.
  • Local rapper Reppa Ton plans to release his debut album, "Forever Changes" this summer.

A local rapper named Reppa Ton, real name Jarrell Wood, has released a new track, "Timeless," that he says he hopes will spread positivity during a rough week on the nightly news.

Released April 22, and written around six months earlier, the upbeat "Timeless" relates to the Baltimore crisis, he says, because "a lot of what's going on up there is the result of anger and agitation;" and we need to focus more on the good.

"Martin Luther King Jr said during his 1968 speech 'riot is the language of the unheard.'" Wood tells Style. "The record is an outspoken vibe of happiness and positivity. Family values are lost, the youth alongside the elders are battling society for a shot at comfort. My message is to break out the mental shackles we've been locked in and smile. It's okay to laugh, dance and celebrate a life worth living."

He's not worried that people will write it off as another "Don't Worry, Be Happy" message, or cynical ploy to earn hits off of tragedy.

"I'm not worried about the perception of 'Timeless' especially after the video is released," he says somewhat cryptically. "It doesn't fit in with a category of popular culture music or message."

So does Wood have any answers about how to build a better dialogue or future?

"A solution can stem from acknowledgment, practical guidance and insight on a brighter side," he says. "The perfect place to start this process is at home. As a great guitarist by the name of Jimi Hendrix once said 'When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.'"

Wood believes musicians can play a major role in supporting affirmative goals. And he notes that his debut album "Forever Changes" drops sometime this summer. You can check out more from him here.

"I believe that music has an influence like no other art forms. What we present verbally on a record creates a potential energy to be put in motion. Positivity is a progressive air to inhale while being oppressed . As I quote in the first verse of ['Timeless']: 'The lighter fluid lit outside the cave, helps me see I'm not a lion in a cage.'"

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Paul McCartney playing Cville

Pre-sale for June 23 event starts tomorrow.

Posted By on Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Paul McCartney will be playing Charlottesville for the first time ever in June.
  • Paul McCartney will be playing Charlottesville for the first time ever in June.

Sir Paul McCartney is bringing his "Out There" tour to John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville on Tuesday, June 23.

The concert was announced today by University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan. The long show should span all decades of his illustrious career going back to Beatles and Wings hits, as well as his solo work.

Tickets range from $59 to $250 and presale starts Thursday for American Express holders. General on-sale happens Monday. Go here for more information.

And tonight, if you happen to be in Charlottesville, the real John Paul Jones, bassist from Led Zeppelin, will be playing mandolin backing up Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch at the Jefferson. Tickets for that are $25 bucks.

CORRECTION: Pre-sale starts Thursday, April 30.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Wanda Sykes Sees Dead People at The Jefferson

Comedian describes harrowing experience to Ellen DeGeneres.

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 11:00 AM

On Wednesday, while appearing on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," comedian Wanda Sykes revealed that she had seen a ghost the last time she stayed at the historic Jefferson Hotel in Richmond.

From the Blaze.com:

“I don’t want people to think I’m crazy, but it happened,” she told host Ellen DeGeneres.

Sykes said that she returned to her room at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia, after a show one night, and suddenly felt that something wasn’t quite right.

“I just had a sense that somebody else is in this room and I was like looking around,” she said, admitting that she had a few drinks. “I just had to make sure that it wasn’t the alcohol, but I was like, ‘No, something is in the room,’ and I kind of looked out of the corner of my eye and it was this woman — it was an old black woman, right, and she just was looking at me.”

Sykes added, “I’m pretty sure she was a slave, because don’t nobody wear stuff like that anymore.”

The comedian said she didn’t feel like the ghost would hurt her, and said that it seemed as though she was more surprised than anything else to see Sykes inside of such a nice hotel room.

The comedian joked that she told the ghost that “things turned out pretty good,” with DeGeneres and the audience erupting in laughter.

“And I know you’re really probably just blown away to see me — this black woman — in this big hotel room,” Sykes apparently told the ghost, going on to quip about what she did next. ”I got the remote control. ‘If this is good, wait until you see who the president is. This is going to scare the hell out of you.’”

She said the woman stayed and watched her for a little while before disappearing.

“And I said, ‘Why don’t you go scare white people. That’s what I would do if I were you,’” Sykes joked.

You can watch the clip below:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cannes Bound

Local actor's film in competition for Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 1:00 AM

Midlothian resident Devin Druid (right) in a scene with Jesse Eisenberg from "Louder Than Bombs," which will be competing for the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival next month.
  • Midlothian resident Devin Druid (right) in a scene with Jesse Eisenberg from "Louder Than Bombs," which will be competing for the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival next month.

Devin Druid, the impressive young actor we profiled last November when he was starring in the acclaimed HBO series, "Olive Kitteridge," has another success on his hands.

Druid, 17, stars alongside Jesse Eisenberg ("The Social Network"), Isabelle Huppert and Gabriel Bryne in Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s "Louder Than Bombs" which will be competing in the main competition at the Cannes International Film Festival held between May 13-24. It's the first time in 36 years that Norway has fielded a contender for the Palme d'Or.

Playlist described the Eskil Vogt-scripted drama as "being 'Rashomon'-esque, revolving around a late war photographer played by Huppert, whose husband and two sons [Druid plays Conrad] discover a secret about her past as a retrospective of her work is being put together."

"We actually got to screen a cut of the film this morning and it is wonderful," Druid's mother Christine says via e-mail.

Druid tells Style that the film was an "incredible joy" to work on and he learned a lot from his scenes with veteran actor Gabriel Byrne.

"I feel like we've invested so much time and emotion into this project, and it's so great to finally see it put together. I believe it's a masterpiece in all honesty," he says. "Such emotional depth and there's a purpose for everything in every shot. Joachim really thought deeply about everything going into this."

He says he got word that "Louder Than Bombs" would be competing just a few days before the official announcement. His family has been ecstatic ever since, he adds.

"I will be attending the festival. I was told that they would like to have me so I'm very excited about that as well," he says. "It'll be my first real time out of the country. I say real because the only time I've ever been was over the border to Canada for about two hours to see Niagara Falls. I'm very, very happy and I just can't wait!"

More recently, Druid had a role in VCUArts film production of "Macbeth" featured in this Style cover story. The professionalism that his directors praise in his acting is just as evident in how he conducts himself, even in brief interviews: unerringly polite, thoughtful and humble.

And it continues to look as if he's got an exceptional career ahead of him.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Marijuana Made

Local rapper OG ILLA releases his debut on 420.

Posted By on Mon, Apr 20, 2015 at 12:30 PM

The cover of the new album, "Marijuana Made" by OG ILLA, which exhales its release party tonight at Strange Matter.
  • The cover of the new album, "Marijuana Made" by OG ILLA, which exhales its release party tonight at Strange Matter.

Back in January of 2013, I met Broad Street Elite rapper SO !LLA at Buffalo Wild Wings in the west end of Henrico, a few blocks away from our former high school, J.R. Tucker. We sat down for an interview -- later titled "Grindaholic" -- that focused on hopeful moguls within RVA’s hip hop community.

After I had spilled my Diet Coke all over the table, I finally got down to asking !LLA about the number of different hats he wore in Richmond’s hip hop community.

“I'm a promoter and booker [at the then popular night club Kingdom], I’m developing a clothing line, working on video production with Aura HD, I’m a graphic designer, and also a rapper,” he said with smile that indicated he knew something I didn’t.

Fast forward to April 2015, now the rapper is going by OG ILLA. And now he has narrowed his focus down to music -- in particular, his debut album “Marijuana Made” which sees its album release party tonight at Strange Matter, appropriately on 420.

“I’ve covered all my bases, I mean what more can I do?” says ILLA via text message. “I’ve worked with BMI to register my music, I’ve got professional public relations, I’ve released singles and videos to an overwhelmingly positive response, and have been promoting this project for a year. I have a goal to sell 1,000 copies first week.”

ILLA says when he stopped making music, he noticed it was something he needed in his life. “My heart slowly started speaking to me. Hip hop and I have a bond that has carried me through everything. From being homeless and throwing live shows to missing meals just to save money for recording time and videos. I’ve lost time with my family and loved ones just so I can hustle and focus on hip hop. It really does run through me,” he says.

The lead track on the new album, “Broad Street Elite (from Shockoe2ShortPump)” is ILLA’s anthem to RVA: part-tribute, part-gritty club record, BSE optimizes ILLA’s hooligan life style. ILLA also offers fans two other creative visuals from “Marjiuana Made” for the tracks, “Slippin Away” and “Dear Tony.”

“I really dug deep and spent valuable time constructing this project,” he says. “Those familiar with my music will finally see my effort on the production side. I co-produced all the beats with DJ Gringo. I was also very active in final mix and mastering of the project. It's a very personal project for me.”

OG ILLA will release his debut album Marijuana Made on Monday, April 20th. The release party show at Strange Matter will feature performances by: OG ILLA, Ms. Proper, Zae Kinchen, Innascent, Doe Flacko, Dan V. Hefner and Scuba. Music by DJ Gringo – Hosted by Cain McCoy of SlapdashVA. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Friday, April 17, 2015

InLight 2015 to be held at VMFA

Campus will stay open from 7 a.m. to midnight on Nov.13

Posted By on Fri, Apr 17, 2015 at 1:15 PM

Next fall, Inlight is celebrating eight years of bringing magical light installations to Richmonders by partnering with VMFA for InLight 2015.
  • Next fall, Inlight is celebrating eight years of bringing magical light installations to Richmonders by partnering with VMFA for InLight 2015.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts knows a popular local event when it sees one.

1708 Gallery's always wondrous light installation known as InLight Richmond is partnering with VMFA for this year's eighth annual event to be held on Nov. 13 at the museum campus. The grounds will stay open from 7 a.m. to midnight in honor of the free event, according to a press release. This year's juror is Alex Baker, director at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia.

A perfect photo-op for the smartphone-wielding masses, InLight has built an impressive following over the years. The event has featured 190 local, national and international artists and artist collectives in some of Richmond's most unique neighborhoods, engaging more than 30,000 visitors, according to the release.

"We've been fortunate to have many great partners in years past, but VMFA represents the first major arts organization," said Emily Smith, executive director at 1708 Gallery in the release. "I am eager to see how artists transform the campus with works that consider all aspects of the museum, from its vast collections to the history of its buildings and grounds."

For more information, including how to submit proposals, please visit www.1708gallery.org/inlight.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bill Paxton's Richmond Stop Featured on TLC

Actor journeys to Library of Virginia for "Who Do You Think You Are?"

Posted By on Tue, Apr 14, 2015 at 3:00 PM

Bill Paxton studying his family history with local historian Gregg Kimball in an upcoming episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" airing on TLC on April 19.
  • Bill Paxton studying his family history with local historian Gregg Kimball in an upcoming episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" airing on TLC on April 19.

Famous actor Bill Paxton has a family secret that he learned about in Richmond.

Paxton ("Twister,""Big Love") made a trip to the Library of Virginia to study his family roots. The segment will be featured on an episode of TLC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" that airs April 19.

TLC notes in a press release that Paxton has always been fascinated by American history and knew he had ancestors who fought in the Civil War. He meets a genealogist who alerts him that his four-times great grandfather, Benjamin Sharp, served as a spy.

In the Richmond segment, Paxton talks with local historian Dr. Gregg Kimball, among others.

“I was surprised and delighted to be asked to be the consulting historian for Bill’s visit to the Library of Virginia. Doing a screen test via Skype was a bit unnerving, though!" says Kimball via email. "'Who Do You Think You Are?' reaches a national audience and I hope that the episode will inspire others to explore their family history with us.”

“It only took a few minutes to realize that Bill had a great appreciation for American history—not surprising from an actor who starred in 'Apollo 13' and the recent 'Hatfields and McCoys.' He dove into the hard work of research, reading scratchy microfilm, leafing through indexes and books, and reading 19th-century handwriting.”

From the press release:

"In Richmond, Bill discovers that Benjamin Sharp moved up in the world working in civil service. Impressively, he was appointed by future president James Monroe to be on the commission that certified ballot results for the 1800 presidential election race between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Then Bill finds his ancestor in an original book of Virginian Delegates and realizes that Benjamin Sharp moved even future up the ladder, helping elect senators, laying out districts, and building new communities. But after researching his ancestor in property records, Bill finds disturbing information that makes him question the morality of his four-time great grandfather."

Yikes. Wonder what that could be? Stay tuned..

Hues and Cries

VCU team aims to solve color debates.

Posted By on Tue, Apr 14, 2015 at 1:00 AM

This image shows the RGB gamut space represented as 3D points in the latest software version of Color Gamut. The video analysis load window is also visible.
  • This image shows the RGB gamut space represented as 3D points in the latest software version of Color Gamut. The video analysis load window is also visible.

Who can forget the online furor over the blue or gold dress?

If some researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University have their way, subjective arguments about color may be a thing of the past.

A collaboration of art and science has resulted in the Color Gamut, software that creates a 3-D, interactive model of color space. It could not only change how color theory is taught but also offer valuable applications outside the art world.

Illustrator Robert Meganck, who’s taught color theory at VCU for 37 years, realized around four years ago that he needed another tool to teach contemporary color.

“When someone uses a term like red, they are referencing a broad range of colors,” he writes in an email: “rose, blood red, scarlet, crimson, etc. What we are trying to do is to provide a tool that can be used by industry experts when very specific color identification is necessary.”

Meganck, who is chair of the department of communication arts, joined with visual effects specialist and communication arts professor Matt Wallin and physics professor Peter Martin to tackle the challenge.

They came up with software that analyzes images, plotting pixels of colors using three measurements: hue, chroma and value.

After a recent Wired magazine article didn’t quite describe the work to his liking, Meganck writes: “I describe it as a color visualization, analysis and manipulation software tool based on existing scientific and mathematical formulation [used] to quantify and display composition and compositional changes in color images.”

It’s complicated. But yes, you could use it to describe a dress.

The use of color across industries is extensive, and Meganck says the VCU team is exploring applications within the medical, defense and manufacturing industries -- as wide-ranging as checking soil samples for deterioration and identifying the size and extent of a tumor. A biology research team at VCU that uses color imagery to detect leaked chemicals from undetonated explosives already is using the software.

In the past year, Meganck’s added three computer science students to the team to assist with model development. The researchers received a $40,000 grant from the Department of Commerce last year, and Meganck hopes to have a beta version of its model available by the end of the year.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

End of the Internet

Cat rock band coming to Richmond. Repeat: Cat rock band coming to Richmond.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 8, 2015 at 4:30 PM

The Stray Cats are dead: Long live the real stray cats, the world's only live cat band, The Rock Cats.
  • The Stray Cats are dead: Long live the real stray cats, the world's only live cat band, The Rock Cats.

If I know the Internet, when I hit "update" after posting this juicy bit of news, it will all be over. One loud white whine and then nothing. ...

We just found out that the Amazing Acro-Cats -- a cat circus troupe of some renown, is coming to the Libby Gottwald Playhouse in Richmond this summer, from June 11 through 14.

Also, hold on: They're bringing a cat band, the Rock Cats.

I know some will probably see this as inhumane treatment of our feline friends, others will probably find it better than the Beatles. But for now, take a gander and just try not to yell "more cowbell!"

Based in Chicago, the Amazing Acro-Cats was founded by Samantha Martin and tours the U.S. nine months of the year with domestic cats (mostly orphans and strays) and a few small animals. Before you get mad: Martin uses the show to promote cat welfare and a portion of the money earned is given to rescue organizations.

But back to the Rock Cats: A Seattle review said "these cats are capable of anarchic musical compositions" and compared them to free jazz. Other reviews have been decidedly more critical.

One more time: The Rock Cats are coming.

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