November 25, 2015

move rev 11-25-15Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) and Rose Lacey (Fiona Glascott) have stayed in their family’s home because their widowed mother (Jane Brennan) is still grieving the loss of their late father. The devoted daughters have had to put their dreams on hold, since job prospects aren’t great for young women without higher education in tiny Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland.

Although Eilis has exhibited an affinity for math, she settles for a part time job as a clerk at a grocery store where she works under the thumb of a vindictive shrew (Brid Brennan). The time is the early 50s, when an ambitious local young woman might set her sights on America, the land of opportunity with hopefully a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Salvation arrives when Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), a Catholic priest, is willing to sponsor Eilis’s emigration to the United States. She reluctantly agrees because she knows that the entire burden of caring for their mother will now fall on her sister’s shoulders. However, after an exchange of tearful goodbyes, she boards the New York-bound steamship and goes to her bunk in steerage for a seasick plagued voyage to America.

Eilis finds a room in Brooklyn in a female-only boardinghouse run by an eagle-eyed landlady (Julie Walters) who is obsessed with protecting the reputations of the young Irish immigrants under her supervision. Eilis gets a job at a department store and tuition money to study bookkeeping at college.

While grateful for all this generous help, Eilis still misses her mother and sister terribly. So much so that she seriously considers going back to Ireland, although Father Flood assures her that the homesickness will eventually pass.

Everything changes the night she meets handsome Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) at a dance. The two fall in love and embark on a romance that enables Eilis to make the adjustment to life in the States.

However, just when she’s ready to decide to stay in America, fate intervenes when a tragedy occurs that demands her immediate return to Ireland. Of course, when she is back in Enniscorthy, Eilis is pursued by a wealthy bachelor (Domnhall Gleason).

Which suitor will she choose? The answer to that question arrives at a moment of truth in Brooklyn, a touching historical drama directed by John Crowley (Closed Circuit). Based on Colm Toibin’s best seller of the same name, the film features an elegantly understated performance by Saoirse Ronan that is likely to land the 21-year-old ingenue her second Oscar nomination.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for brief profanity and a sex scene. Running time: 111 minutes. Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Theater PBS

NEW ORIGINAL PBS SERIES: The Lewis Center for the Arts presents a screening of the new PBS Civil War drama, “Mercy Street” on Monday, December 7 at 7 p.m. followed by a panel discussion moderated by Christina Lazaridi. Both events are free and open to the public, but advance reservations are strongly recommended. Tickets can be reserved at (Photo Courtesy of Antony Platt/PBS)

The Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University will present a special preview screening of the new PBS Civil War era drama series Mercy Street on Monday, December 7 at 7 p.m. in the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater at 185 Nassau Street. The screening, preceded by a reception beginning at 6:15 p.m., is free and open to the public, however advance reservations are encouraged.

Set in Virginia in the spring of 1862, Mercy Street follows the lives of two volunteer nurses on opposite sides of the conflict; Mary Phinney (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a staunch New England abolitionist, and Emma Green (Hannah James), a naive young Confederate belle. The two collide at Mansion House, the Green family’s luxury hotel that has been taken over and transformed into a Union Army Hospital in Alexandria, a border town between North and South and the longest-occupied Confederate city of the war. Ruled under martial law, Alexandria is now the melting pot of the region, filled with soldiers, civilians, female volunteers, doctors, wounded fighting men from both sides, runaway slaves, prostitutes, speculators, and spies. more

book revOnce upon a time a long time ago Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) came to Bloomington, Indiana, in the form of a Classic Comic of Gulliver’s Travels being read by an eight-year-old boy and an impish, bespectacled, congenitally effusive young man of 25-going-on-15 who will eventually be proclaimed Swift’s “best and fullest biographer” by Christopher Ricks in the London Review of Books.

The boy and the biographer are both seated on the living room floor, the Swiftian-to-be having politely refused the boy’s parents’ offer of a chair. “It’s exciting, but scary” the eight-year-old says when asked his thoughts on Gulliver’s Travels. To show what he means by “scary,” he points out the frames where the Lilliputians are swarming over Gulliver’s body, binding it with ropes, staking his long blond hair to the ground. After discussing the imagery, the biographer begins to make playful comments about the “Life of Swift” on the comic’s last page, which the boy has read and finds disturbing. At this point, the parents intervene and the biographer is coaxed into a chair.

Savage Commentary

Because my parents had the first 20 issues of Classic Comics bound as a present for my ninth birthday, I still have the copy of Gulliver’s Travels Irvin Ehrenpreis and I were perusing together all those years ago. Looking over the “Life” at the end, I’m struck by the vehemence of the language describing Gulliver’s “savage commentary on the European world” as “the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.” Pretty heady stuff for an early reader; no wonder I found it disturbing, not to mention the concluding paragraph, in which “Swift’s satire became more and more violently bitter, possibly the result of a mental disease which, by 1736, caused him to become insane. He never recovered and died on October 19, 1745.” In the brief biographies at the end of every Classic Comic, each author dies in such and such a time and place, but Swift’s fate became one of the numerous shadowy elements of a childhood occasionally haunted by the sound of phantom footsteps and the sight of an abandoned playground where the empty swings were still in motion.  more

Art Fire

This painting by Heather Barros is among the works in the “Earth/Fire” juried art exhibit hosted by D&R Greenway Land Trust. The show celebrates the themes of earth and/or fire. These inspirational elements are essential to land conservation and our spiritual passion and grounding. The artists in this juried exhibition celebrate the playfulness of flame and the steadiness of soil in a wide variety of interpretations and mediums. “Earth/Fire” runs through January 22, 2016 with an opening reception on Friday, December 4 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at One Preservation Place. (Photo Courtesy of

Music in response to great tragedy over the centuries has covered the spectrum of war songs, to orchestral works inspired by current events, to popular music. Perhaps as a sign of the time, musical works addressing man-made tragedies have become more common in the past two decades, such as John Adam’s On the Transmigration of Souls, commissioned shortly after 9/11. In 2014, composer and Princeton Singers Artistic Director Steven Sametz found himself compelled to compose a work in memory of those killed in the 2012 Sandy Hooks Elementary School shootings in Connecticut, believing that “as artists, we are hopeful that what we create may offer healing to those who mourn.” Perhaps also as a sign of the times, Sametz’s A Child’s Requiem is a multi-media work, incorporating artwork from elementary school-age children into a supertitled performance featuring two choirs, soloists, and orchestra. For Saturday night’s concert at Princeton Meadows Church and Event Center, The Princeton Singers were joined by the Ensemble and Cantores choirs of the Princeton Girlchoir, as well as three vocal soloists and a highly-polished orchestra.

The tributes to the victims of Sandy Hook began Saturday night in the entryway to Princeton Meadow Church with portraits of the children. In this work, Sametz also paid tribute to several musical traditions of the past, beginning with a musical anagram of letters from the words “Sandy Hook.” The four pitches derived formed a musical cell which Sametz wove into an orchestral “Prologue” marked by a poignant cello solo and visually accompanied by a child’s drawing of a broken heart.  more

Theater Cabaret

A longtime fixture of the New York cabaret scene, two-time Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole will perform her new show, Big Noise from Winnetka, at McCarter Theatre on December 12 at 8 p.m. Ebersole created the production with her longtime music director Bette Sussman. Song selections in Big Noise from Winnetka include “Alfie,” “Woodstock,” “Landslide,” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” To purchase tickets, visit or call (609) 258-2787. 

November 18, 2015

book rev

In Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, Paris is a “cradle” in which “each one slips back into his soil: one dreams back to Berlin, New York, Chicago, Vienna, Minsk. Vienna is never more Vienna than in Paris” — which could also be said of cities everywhere, including Cairo and Damascus, Istanbul, Aleppo, and Baghdad. In Paris, Miller adds, “Everything is raised to apotheosis. The cradle gives up its babes and new ones take their places … where Zola lived and Balzac and Dante and Strindberg and everybody who ever was anything. Everyone has lived here some time or other. Nobody dies here.” more

Music Trenton

Trenton children beginning music study will have their own instruments to take home for practicing, and neglected instruments will find a whole new life, as Princeton University’s Office of Public Affairs and WWFM The Classical Network host “Instruments of Change,” benefitting the Trenton Community Music School. From November 30 through December 4, the Office of Public Affairs will open its doors for members of the community whose musical instruments are in need of a good home. Families whose children have outgrown their small instruments, shifted their interests away from playing, or developed into the need for a finer instrument, will find grateful recipients for their ½-size violins, novice-level flutes, or instruments that are no longer played. The Office of Public Affairs is located at 22 Chambers Street in Princeton, and will be open for donations from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

C Carol

McCarter Theatre has produced “A Christmas Carol” every year since 1980, when then Artistic Director Nagle Jackson brought his adaptation to the theater. The current adaptation by David Thompson remains faithful to much of the language and spirit of Dickens’s original story, capturing both the struggles of Victorian life, and the joy and redemption of the holiday season. 2015 performance dates run from December 4 through 27. Seen here (l-r) are Graeme Malcolm, Michele Tauber, Sari Weinerman, Madeline Fox, and Bradley Mott. (Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson)

Art 1

“HARVEST TIME”: This watercolor by Amy Amico is one of the plein air paintings on display at the Gourgaud Gallery in Cranbury from December 6-23. Each painting is inspired by a private property or park in and around the town of Cranbury.

A group show of paintings by artists who participated in the Art in the Park plein air series sponsored by the Cranbury Arts Council will run from December 6 to 23 at the Gourgaud Gallery in Cranbury.

There will be an artist reception on Sunday, December 6 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Gallery located in Cranbury Town Hall (Old School Building), 23-A North Main Street. Each month from May to October, a different Cranbury property hosts local artists to capture the scenes offered at their beautiful gardens and historic homes.  more

Theater rev 11-18-15 Bengal

GO, TIGER!: The Tiger (Victoria Davidjohn, center), who serves as narrator, aggressor, victim, and philosopher; is guarded by two U.S. Marines, Kev (Max Feldman, left) and Tom (Matt Chuckran) in war-torn Baghdad in Theatre Intime’s production of Rajiv Joseph’s dark surrealistic comedy “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” (2009), playing at the Hamilton Murray Theater on the Princeton University campus through November 21.

The legacy of Saddam Hussein and the repercussions of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq continue to haunt us. Playwright Rajiv Joseph, who understands the power of ghosts and the inexorable reverberations of violence and corruption, would not be surprised.

Mr. Joseph’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (2009) is a war story, a dark comedy, with much more darkness than humor. Set in Baghdad in 2003, the first days of the Iraq War, the play is strikingly, shockingly realistic in its depictions of the brutalities of war and its effects on all parties involved. But it is also disturbingly surrealistic, with ghosts gradually taking over the stage from live characters, and an eloquent, acerbic, philosophical tiger presiding over the proceedings.  more

November 11, 2015

movie rev 11-11-15

In 2002, Gonzalo “Goni” Sanchez de Lozada, a candidate for the presidency of Bolivia, was floundering in the polls with just a few months to go to election day. Since the desperate multimillionaire had been raised in the United States, he knew how a political consulting firm could influence the outcome of an election.

So, he retained the services of James Carville, who had successfully orchestrated Bill Clinton’s presidential bid in 1992, and Carville came to Bolivia with a team of media-savvy strategists.

Still, repositioning Goni would be difficult, since he was an unpopular ex-president who had been exposed as a pro-American, pro-globalization puppet controlled by powerful corporate interests. Carville and company’s only hope rested in employing smear tactics against the other two favorites in the race: a socialist and a capitalist.

Ultimately, the carpetbaggers prevailed, and that incredible feat was chronicled by Our Brand Is Crisis (2005), a documentary that showed how easy it was for money to corrupt the democratic process with the help of a team from Madison Avenue. The picture also questioned the wisdom of fixing foreign elections in this fashion, since bloody civil unrest subsequently arose in Bolivia, which forced Goni to flee the country for asylum in the U.S. a year later.

Directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express), Our Brand Is Crisis 2.0 is a sanitized version of the above described events. Names have been changed and characters have been conflated and added to make the intervention almost appear benign.

Here, courtesy of revisionist history, the socialist (Louis Arcella) and capitalist (Joaquim de Almeida) candidates both rely on assistance from two American PR firms led by Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock), respectively. The entertaining adventure pits a flirtatious and crafty mercenary against an idealistic ex-alcoholic in a battle of wits marked by deception and dirty tricks.

Instead of making a pure political thriller, director Green has cut the tension with moments of levity and sexual innuendo. As a result, the movie works very well as formulaic Hollywood fare.

The movie is a light-hearted primer in how to mount a smear campaign that manipulates a banana republic to vote against its own self-interest.

Very Good (***). Rated  R for profanity and sexual references. In English and Spanish with subtitles. Running time: 108 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures.

Art 1

“TRENTON MAKES BRIDGE”: Local photographers capture the beauty of winter across the world in “The Quiet Months” exhibit at the Tulpehaking Nature Center in Hamilton. (Photo by Jonathan Michalik)

The Tulpehaking Nature Center will feature an exhibit that is a celebration of winter and water. Through photographs and interactive activities, The Quiet Months: An Exploration of Winter, opening December 4, takes a look at the special properties of water that make winter unique; how plants and animals survive the frigid season; and how we all can enjoy the marvels of nature in winter.

The exhibit will feature the work of regional photographers with images from near and far — from the Abbott Marshlands and Delaware River in Trenton to ice fields in Iceland. The photographs illustrate how water freezes to create varied textures and patterns, and show the beauty found by those who take the time to look. more

Book RevNear the end of her new memoir M Train (Knopf $25), Patti Smith returns from a trip to find the West Village café she considers a second home closed, for good. When she taps on the window, the owner lets her in and offers to make her a last cup of coffee. She sits there all morning in the closed café, the “picture of woebegone” shown on the cover with her camera and her coffee, head propped on one hand while she keeps the other hand palm down on the table, as if to hold it, claim it, keep it until she’s ready to give it up. The cover photo was taken by a bystander with a Polaroid camera like the one Smith uses to illustrate her travels with pictures of stations along the way, her aim being “to possess within a single image the straw hat of Robert Graves, typewriter of Hesse, spectacles of Beckett, sickbed of Keats.” After sitting at her corner table “a long time thinking of nothing,” she picks up her pen and begins to write.

When she says “good-bye to her corner,” the owner gives her the table and chair. It’s a Patti Smith moment.


In M Train, which has been on the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list for several weeks now, Patti Smith withdraws into her own “atmosphere,” and wherever she goes, the atmosphere, like Mary’s little lamb, is sure to follow. The effect on chosen scenes, situations, places, objects, and dreams resembles Keats’s notion of the poetical character, which “has no self … is every thing and nothing … enjoys light and shade” and “lives in gusto, be it foul or fair, high or low, rich or poor, mean or elevated.”  more

Art 2

“BARNES HALL”: This still image from the “Barnes Hall 2012-14” exhibit at the Princeton Day School (PDS) Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery will be on display from November 24 to December 17. The exhibit features the photography and video work of PDS alumna Eleanor Oakes ’03.

A new exhibition is opening at the Princeton Day School (PDS) Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery on November 24 and will run through December 17. The exhibit titled Barnes Hall 2012-2014 features the photography and video work of PDS alumna Eleanor Oakes ‘03. There will be an opening reception on Tuesday, November 14 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the gallery. There will also be an open house with the artist on Friday, November 27 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the gallery. Both events are free and open to the public.

PDS alumna Eleanor Oakes is an artist and photography professor currently living in Detroit. She received a BA in Visual Arts and Art History from Princeton University in 2007 and an MFA in Art Practice from Stanford University in 2014. Her work has received awards, such as a Murphy and Cadogan Contemporary Art Award from the San Francisco Foundation (2013) among others, and has been featured in publications and exhibitions such as 25 Under 25: Up-And-Coming American Photographers and a recent solo exhibition at Tyler Wood Gallery in San Francisco. Her work can be viewed online at more

Princeton Symphony Orchestra continued its journey through “significant voices of our time” with a concert of appealing yet complex music Sunday afternoon in Richardson Auditorium. For this concert, in a season dedicated to women’s creativity, PSO Music Director Rossen Milanov chose to explore the topic through guest solo pianist Joyce Yang, an international superstar who mesmerized Sunday afternoon’s audience with demonically virtuosic playing.

Concerts featuring guest stars often ‘warm up’ the audience with a familiar work before the star attraction. PSO put a great deal of faith in its audience on Sunday afternoon by beginning the concert with a full-length symphony by Princeton composer Edward T. Cone. Cone’s 1953 Symphony showed the musical influence on Cone of the early 20th-century Second Viennese School in its use of small melodic fragments passed around among the players of the orchestra. In the opening Sostenuto random pitches seemed to come from throughout the stage, as conductor Mr. Milanov maintained steady control over the building intensity. The texture continually changed as different instruments came to the forefront during the course of the work.  more

Theater Bollywood

From acclaimed Artistic Director Rahis Bharti, Bollywood Masala invites audiences on a lively musical journey from Radasthan to Mumbai at McCarter Theatre on Monday, November 16 at 7:30 p.m.

For their Princeton debut, a company of 17 musicians and dancers will perform traditional Rajasthani dance, including pot balancing, standing on swords, the Maharaja (spinning dances), and even the spectacle of fire breathing. The dancers will be accompanied by musicians using a variety of instrumentation.  more

Music Flute

Swiss flutist Emmanuel Pahud will perform with guitarist Christian Rivet at Richardson Auditorium on Thursday, November 19 at 8 p.m. The musicians will perform selections from their 2014 award-winning recording titled, Around the World, a collection of music linking four continents across three centuries. The program will include both original works and special arrangements by Astor Piazzolla, Maurice Ohana, Francesco Molino, Ravi Shankar, George Frederic Handel, Elliott Carter, Christian Rivet, and Béla Bartók. There will be a musical preview at 7 p.m. free to ticketholders, featuring the Princeton Pianists Ensemble performing arrangements of Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Chopin, and Ravel for up to eight hands. more

November 4, 2015

movie revNowadays, most women take for granted the fact that they can vote. Nevertheless, they owe a big debt of gratitude to the mostly unsung suffragettes who made great sacrifices for decades before securing that hard-fought right.

In the United States, women got the vote in 1919 when the 19th amendment to the constitution was adopted. The year before, England granted the franchise to females over 30 who were either landowners, college graduates, or married to a politician. However, a decade later, it was extended to all British citizens over 21 on an equal basis.

Directed by Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane), Suffragette is a moving documentary drama set in London during the critical period leading up to the Parliament’s passage of the Representation of the People Act of 1918. The film is a substantially fictionalized version of events, since only two of the characters here were real life heroines, namely, Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) and Emily Wilding Davison (1872-1913), portrayed by Meryl Streep and Natalie Press, respectively.

Streep merely makes a cameo appearance as Pankhurst, a pioneer who plays an inspirational role in the movement. Still, she may earn her 20th Oscar nomination because she delivers yet another sterling performance. The picture’s other historical figure, Davison, was a fiery activist who was periodically imprisoned for advocating arson, stone throwing, and other violent tactics in her zealous pursuit of the right to vote.

The movie is about Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), a protagonist who is a creation of scriptwriter Abi Morgan’s (The Iron Lady) imagination. Initially, she’s portrayed as a fed up steam laundry employee who desires to improve women’s lot in the workplace in the areas of wages, sexual harassment, and safe working conditions.

In many respects, Maud’s persona is reminiscent of Norma Rae (1979), the feisty union organizer played by Sally Field. Suffragette is a poignant reminder of just how far women have come over the past century. Oh, and yes, the very capable Carey Mulligan is likely to be remembered come awards season, too.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for intense violence, mature themes, brief profanity, and partial nudity. Running time: 106 minutes. Distributor: Focus Features.

Art Rev 1

“MOONSCAPE”: The watercolor pictured above titled “Moonscape” will be among the paintings by Jane Adriance displayed at the University Medical Center of Princeton (UMCP) through February 2016. On Friday, November 20 there will be an opening reception for the exhibit from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Art for Healing Gallery at UMCP.

The University Medical Center of Princeton (UMCP) will host a wine and cheese reception on Friday, November 20, to mark the opening of an exhibit featuring works by Princeton watercolor artist Jane Adriance.

The reception is scheduled from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Art for Healing Gallery, which is located in the concourse connecting UMCP to the Medical Arts Pavilion and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Community Health Center. To attend, please RSVP at by November 13. more

Stuart RevIn the course of checking to see whether the 2015 World Series is the first to begin and end in extra innings, I found that the longest game ever played without being called a tie or suspended was between the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals on September 11, 1974. The game lasted 7 hours and 45 minutes, and when the Cardinals won it 4-3 in the 25th inning, it was 3:13 a.m. and only a thousand fans were still at Shea Stadium. Writing a few weeks ago when post-season play had just begun, I quoted catcher Bengie Molina’s father telling Bengie that it was possible for a baseball game to last forever if no team scored. The idea that baseball could defy space and time sounded to Bengie “more like God than anything I heard in church.”

If I’m thinking of extra innings in cosmic terms — baseball’s version of the afterlife — it’s because I’ve been reading W.P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe (1982), the basis for the 1989 film Field of Dreams. Among the novel’s numerous challenges to the “suspension of disbelief” are two formidable fantasies: the return of baseball legend Shoeless Joe Jackson to a ball field laid out for him (“If you build it, he will come”) and the forced return of literary legend J.D. Salinger from self-imposed exile in New Hampshire. An even more improbable leap of the imagination for Kinsella than the resurrection of Jackson was the notion of a fictional baseball-loving Salinger ultimately going along with the field-of-dreams fantasy. Still more improbable was that the real-life Salinger would allow himself to be written into someone else’s novel.  more


CONTEMPORARY CHOREOGRAPHERS: Beth Gill will be one of three choreographers to present during the Lewis Center for the Arts’ “Choreographers in Residence and in Conversation” on Tuesday, November 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Patricia Ward Hagan ’48 Dance Studio, 185 Nassau Street. Gill is a 2015-16 Hodder Fellow at the Lewis Center. In addition to commissions from New York Live Arts, The Chocolate Factory Theater, The Kitchen, and Dance Theater Workshop, in 2011 she won two New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Awards for Outstanding Emerging Choreographer. (Photo Credit: Chris Cameron)

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Dance will present “Choreographers in Residence and in Conversation,” featuring three choreographers associated with the Princeton Dance Program on Tuesday, November 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Patricia and Ward Hagan ’48 Dance Studio, 185 Nassau Street. Choreographers Beth Gill, a 2015-16 Hodder Fellow; Dean Moss, a current guest artist; and Pavel Zustiak, a 2015-17 Princeton Arts Fellow, will present works-in-progress, as well as discuss the doubts, difficulties, and revelations they’ve encountered in the course of their current artistic undertakings. This event is free and open to the public. more

Music Faust

Violinist Isabelle Faust will perform the complete set of solo violin sonatas and partitas by Johann Sebastian Bach at Princeton University Chapel on Monday, November 16 at 7 p.m.

In keeping with the new concert format launched earlier this year called PUC125: Performances Up Close, this concert will be presented in-the-round with the violinist elevated on a platform. Given the intimate nature of the reconfigured space and its acoustic setting, seating is limited.  more

Felix Mendelssohn did very little in the field of opera, however, his sacred oratorios are as theatrical as any 19th-century operatic work. In particular, the oratorio Elijah, premiered in 1846, musically depicts a dramatic Biblical story through arias, recitatives, and choruses, infused with the composer’s gift for melodic writing. The more than 100-voice Princeton Pro Musica, conducted by Ryan James Brandau, presented a well-informed performance of this work to a very appreciative audience on Sunday afternoon in Richardson Auditorium, showing off the capabilities of the chorus as well as four seasoned vocal soloists. more

October 28, 2015

movie rev

Launched by Robert Lawrence Stine in 1992, Goosebumps is a popular series of spooky stories that are carefully crafted to scare 7- to 12-year-olds. The so-called Stephen King of kiddie literature has published hundreds of titles over the years and has sold about a half-billion books worldwide.

Directed by Rob Letterman, the film stars Jack Black as R. L. Stine, (the author he’s portraying makes a cameo appearance during a mob scene). Letterman and Black also collaborated in 2010 on a poorly received remake of Gulliver’s Travels.

At the point of departure, we find teenager Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) and his recently widowed mother (Amy Ryan) grieving their loss and in need of a change of scenery, so they move to Madison, Delaware. Their next-door neighbor, Mr. Stine (Black), is a reclusive grouch who warns the boy to keep off his property and stay away from his home-schooled daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush). However,  it’s love at first sight for Zach, who is instantly attracted to her.

On his first day of classes at Madison High, Zach becomes friends with a loner named Champ (Ryan Lee). After school, the pair’s curiosity gets the better of them, and they decide to see what’s happening at the Stine’s house.

After entering the house, they rummage through the author’s mysterious manuscripts that are hidden in the basement, but they don’t realize that they have just unleashed an army of monsters. They’re all characters from Mr. Stine’s fertile imagination: a giant praying mantis, the abominable snowman, the werewolf, lawn gnomes, zombies, venus fly traps, the invisible boy, and so on.

What’s more, the zombies are controlled by a diabolical dummy who wants to wreak mayhem in Madison, and possibly go on to rule the world. Can the creatures be corralled and safely redeposited between the covers of the author’s journal? Can Zach win the heart of Hannah in spite of the objections of her overprotective father? The movie is a family-friendly adventure that provides a perfect blend of light hearted humor and spine tingling fright that will scare and delight children of all ages.

Excellent (****). Rated PG for scary images, intense action, and rude humor. Running time: 103 minutes. Distributor: Sony Pictures.