July 27, 2016

movie rev 7-27-16Pablo Escobar (1949-1993) was an infamous mobster who ran Colombia’s Medellin drug cartel with an iron fist. During his reign, Escobar controlled about 80 percent of the global cocaine market, and took in about $70 million/day.

To maintain his power, the ruthless kingpin had his henchmen assassinate thousands of adversaries, including policemen, politicians, witnesses, judges, and journalists. Therefore, to infiltrate the ranks of such a vicious operation at its height in the 80s was certainly a very difficult and dangerous undertaking.

However, the risks didn’t deter U.S. Customs Agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston), even though he had a wife (Juliet Aubrey) and two children (Lara Decaro and Niall Hayes). Robert assured his spouse that this would be his last assignment before retirement. He adopted the alias Bob Musella and pretended to be a shady Tampa businessman who was willing to turn the drug cartel’s drug money into Florida real estate.

He recruited two agents to help him bring off this daring sting. One was Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger), a novice who posed as his fiancée on her first undercover case. The other was Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), a new partner who has street smarts. Soon the trio is swept into a seedy underworld where they have a close brush with death at every turn. However, by proving themselves to be capable and trustworthy money launderers, they gradually work their way up the Medellin cartel food chain to the point where they gain the confidence of Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), Escobar’s Miami-based right-hand man.

Consequently, Bob and Kathy become friends with Roberto and his wife, Gloria (Elena Anaya). They are regularly invited over for dinner to the Alcainos’ sprawling mansion, however, the host always reminds Bob and Kathy about the gruesome fate that awaits snitches and traitors.

Thus unfolds The Infiltrator, a riveting, cat-and-mouse thriller directed by Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer). The screenplay was adapted by Furman’s mother Ellen from Mazur’s memoir of the same name. The film stars Bryan Cranston, who ratchets up the tension by portraying his conflicted character with a convincing combination of arrogance and existential dread.

Excellent (****). Rated R for pervasive profanity, graphic violence, drug use, and some sexuality. In English and Spanish with subtitles. Running time: 127 minutes. Distributor: Broad Green Pictures.

book revMy earliest memory of political excitement was rooting for Eisenhower during the suspenseful first roll call at what the New York Times called the “bitterly divided” 1952 Republican convention in Chicago. My childhood party loyalty was due to love of Lincoln, who the history books said was a Republican, which was good enough for me—until Kennedy came along. Even so, my first vote almost went to Richard Nixon. I have Norman Mailer’s Esquire essay “Superman Comes to the Super Market” to thank for helping save me from so ignominious a fate.

I only wish Mailer, who died in 2007, had been covering events in Cleveland last week. Is there a writer in the summer of 2016 brash or brilliant or courageous enough to make something novelistically engaging out of that festival of hate and its nightmare nominee? Trump would have been rich dessert for Mailer’s hungry, equally huge and infinitely more stylish and self-aware ego. In a photo online of the two tuxedo-clad men with their wives taken at a 1987 Trump Plaza party for Trump’s The Art of the Deal, Mailer is looking boisterously genial at 64, a barrel-chested battler ever ready for a brawl, while Trump looks hale and handsome at 41, an age at which he had “the attention span of a 9-year-old,” according to a Fox News interview with Tony Schwartz, who ghostwrote the book being so lavishly celebrated.  more

Art Grounds for Sculp 7-27-16

“SATURN’S RINGS”: Elyn Zimmerman will have a solo exhibition titled “Wind, Water, Stone” at the Grounds for Sculpture starting August 27.  

Grounds For Sculpture has announced its Fall/Winter 2016-17 season featuring major solo exhibitions by two distinguished American sculptors, Elyn Zimmerman and Ned Smyth. Both artists are pioneers of public art and long-time participants in the New York art world, exhibiting at some of the most prominent galleries and museums. Their works are represented in museum, private, and public collections throughout the United States and beyond. more

Art Mujeres 7-27-16

“MUJERES”:  Artworks Trenton’s September exhibit titled “Mujeres” will showcase the range of Latina women’s creativity and culture.  Artist Guadalupe Reyes’ untitled work, pictured above, will be including in the showcases, which runs from September 10 to October 1. 

Exploding stereotypes and showing there’s a world of Latina art beyond Frida, Artworks will present “Mujeres,” a group show in September featuring the work of five women artists: Esperanza Cortes, Guadalupe Reyes, Jennifer Rivera, Tamara Torres and Mary Valverde.  more

Recycling company TerraCycle is hosting the 11th annual Jersey Fresh Jam, New Jersey’s biggest showcase of hip hop art and culture on Saturday, August 6. In partnership with Trenton based graffiti artists, Leon Rainbow and Vicious Styles Crew, TerraCycle is providing their headquarters as a canvas for talent around the country to express their artistic freedom. more

Open call auditions for The Pennington Players’ October show, In the Heights, will take place at Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) on Saturday, July 30 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday, August 7 from 2 to 6 p.m. All roles are open and will remain so until the end of auditions. This is a non-equity and non-paying production.  more

July 20, 2016

movie rev 7-20-16First released in 1984, Ghostbusters grossed almost a quarter-billion dollars at the box office, making it the most successful comedy of the 80s. In the 2016 remake, director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) has tweaked the story by changing the gender of the leads from male to female.

Wisely, Feig chose four excellent comediennes: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. The director developed a script that plays to each of their respective strengths. The result is a hilarious remake that pays homage to the first film while remaining refreshingly unique in its own right. Plus, the movie features amusing appearances by original cast members Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts.

The point of departure is stately Aldridge mansion in Manhattan, where a tour guide (Zach Woods) inadvertently releases the disembodied spirit of Gertrude Aldridge (Bess Rous), a serial killer who had been locked in a dungeon and fed through a slot in the door after killing all of her family servants in 1894. The attack by the evil apparition causes the slimed victim to enlist the assistance of Abby Yates (McCarthy) and Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon), professors of the paranormal at the mythical Higgins Institute of Science to exorcise the evil spirit.

The two academics are anxious to explore the haunted house. On their way to the mansion they are joined by Abby’s friend Columbia Professor Erin Gilbert (Wiig), and Patty Tolan (Jones), a token booth clerk who was scared by a spook she saw in a subway tunnel. Unfortunately for the foursome, they are unable to find any evidence of a ghost in the building.

As a result, all three professors lose their jobs. Undeterred, they turn a loft above a Chinese restaurant into a research lab, hire a secretary (Chris Hemsworth), and convert a hearse, borrowed from Patty’s mortician uncle (Ernie Hudson), into a Ghostbuster-mobile.

The self-proclaimed “Conductors of the Metaphysical” develop an arsenal of high-tech weapons including ray guns, a ghost shredder, and a motion-activated proton glove. And just in time, because New York City is being invaded by an army of menacing apparitions.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for action and crude humor. Running time: 116 minutes. Distributor: Sony Pictures.

Harry Potter

A release party is being held Saturday, July 30, starting at 9 p.m., at Princeton Public Library to celebrate Harry Potter’s birthday and the midnight release of the official script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a new play based on an original story by J.K. Rowling. The play is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first to be presented on stage. more

book rev

The time’s right for a column about baseball. The All-Star game’s behind us, the World Series of American politics has begun, and I’ve been reading The Baseball Whisperer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt $26), a book by Michael Tackett subtitled “A Small-Town Coach Who Shaped Big League Dreams.” The town is Clarinda, Iowa, named for Clarinda Buck, who, legend has it, carried water to workmen when the area was being surveyed 150 years ago.  more

Art HAM Terrace 7-20-16

THE TOSHIKO TAKAEZU TERRACE: The Hunterdon Art Museum’s (HAM) terrace was named in honor of artist Toshiko Takaezu, one of the 20th century’s most influential ceramists. Ms. Takaezu moved to Clinton because she loved the waterfall that separates HAM from the Red Mill. She donated much of her time to the museum, and taught at Princeton University for many years.

When renowned ceramic artist Toshiko Takaezu first gazed upon the charming waterfall beside the Hunterdon Art Museum (HAM) in the summer of 1964, she knew she had found just what she was looking for: a home and a peaceful place where she could focus on her work. more

Art Homefront 7-20-16

“ICY TAIWAN MOUNTAINS”: This painting by Lynn Varga will be included in the “Celebration” exhibit hosted by the Creative Collective and HomeFront’s Artspace. The work on display brings awareness to homelessness and the transformative power of art.

The Gourgaud Gallery will host an art exhibition titled, “Celebration” that features members of the Creative Collective and showcasing the artists of HomeFront’s ArtSpace. The exhibit celebrates the work of local artists and highlights the artists of ArtSpace, and aims to build self-confidence through therapeutic art.  more

Art Birds of a Feather 7-20-16

“BLUE JAY” BY MICHAEL YANG: Johnson Park Elementary School artists created scratch-art images of local birds for the “Birds of a Feather” exhibit that are on display at the D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Olivia Rainbow Gallery until July 29.

Through July 29, D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Olivia Rainbow Gallery exhibits Birds of a Feather, scratch-art images of local birds by Johnson Park Elementary School fourth graders. Art teacher Linda Gates inspired this celebration of predominantly New Jersey natives.  more

For the past three years, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has teamed up with Princeton University to present a week-long Composition Institute sponsored by the Edward T. Cone Foundation. Last week, four emerging composers, selected from an international applicant pool of university composition students and composers in the early stages of their careers, worked on the details and refinements of their pieces, aided by the players of the NJSO, Institute conductor David Robertson, and Institute Director and composer Steven Mackey. The week culminated in a performance by the NJSO Saturday night in Richardson Auditorium.  more

Music Martiba 7-20-16

THIS ONE’S FOR THE GIRLS: See 14-time Grammy nominated country star Martina McBride perform at the State Theatre of NJ in New Brunswick on Thursday, August 25 at 8 p.m. McBride is well-known for her soprano singing range and country pop materials. Her greatest hits include “Independence Day,” “A Broken Wing,” “Wild Angels,” and “This One’s for the Girls.”

Theater rev 7-20-16

In pursuing its theme of “the Other,” Princeton Summer Theater (PST), last weekend opened its third production of the season, a funny, philosophical, verbally dazzling production of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead, Tom Stoppard’s 1966 masterpiece spin-off from Shakespeare’s Hamletmore

Oscar October (his stage name) introduced Spacetime Riffs, a local improvisational theater group of about ten performers, to the assembled audience at a recent performance.

“It’s not stand-up comedy,” he said. “It’s not set piece comedy. It’s unique. It’s improv.” And just to make sure the spectators were fully prepared, “I’m pretty sure we’ll offend everybody before the evening is over.” more

The city of Trenton and The Trenton Downtown Association (TDA) host The Levitt AMP Music Series on Capital Green, July 23 through September 24. Trenton was selected to receive a grant of $25,000 to hold 10 free, family-friendly concerts each beginning at 7:30 p.m. Trenton based NJM Insurance Group is also a presenting sponsor.  more

July 13, 2016

movie rev 7-13-16Tarzan quickly became a sensation soon after the stories about him appeared in pulp magazines in 1912. Created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the character soon became a cultural icon and was featured in a series of bestselling novels, more than 200 movies, and a myriad of consumer products.

According to the stories by Burroughs, Tarzan, aka John Clayton, was the son of a married pair of British aristocrats who died in Africa when their boy was an infant. The baby was found and raised in the wild by apes and he learned to speak the language of all the beasts in the jungle.

Moreover, as the “Lord of the Jungle,” he had dominion over the animal kingdom and also over cannibalistic tribes that were eager to rape white women and boil missionaries in a big pot. That insensitive portrayal of Africans as evil and uncivilized eventually became controversial in more enlightened times and Tarzan subsequently declined in popularity.

Now however, he’s been brought back to the big screen. Directed by David Yates (Harry Potter 5, 6, 7 and 8) The Legend of Tarzan portrays a more politically correct version of the Lord of the Jungle.

Set in 1884, the film stars Alexander Skarsgard in the title role and Samuel L. Jackson as his sophisticated sidekick, Dr. George Washington Williams. The American doctor was shoehorned into the story in order to offset the images of the indigenous black tribes.

At the point of departure, we find Tarzan and wife Jane (Margot Robbie) living in London as Lord and Lady Greystoke, and it has apparently been a long time since Tarzan lived in Africa.

When invited by Parliament to serve as a trade emissary, Lord Greystoke leaps at the chance to return to the Congo. What Tarzan doesn’t know is that he is a pawn in a plot masterminded by Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), a diabolical villain who is dealing in blood diamonds.

Upon arriving, it doesn’t take long for Tarzan to revert from a proper English gentleman to the feral vine swinger who can summon a thundering herd of elephants with his signature call.

Very Good (***). Rated PG-13 for action, violence, sensuality, and crude dialogue. Running time: 109 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures.

Topics_Dada

That’s the acronym for Design at Dohm Alley, a multi-media “sensorium” planned for the space between Starbucks and Landau off of Nassau Street. This rendering shows how the entry is envisioned.

book rev

Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam, we’ve all been there.

—Michael Herr (1940-2016)

All I need to do is type “nyt” on the iMac and Paul Krugman is hurrying past “the horror in Dallas” on his way to the subject of the day. In his column headed “A Week from Hell” Charles M. Blow is asking “soul-of-a-nation questions.” On Sunday’s virtual front page of the Times, a detective from Queens says, “This is insanity. It’s just freaking horrendous.” The African American Dallas police chief David Brown “cannot adequately express” the sadness he feels.  more

Morven Mus

The Board of Trustees of Morven Museum and Garden has announced the appointment of Jill M. Barry as executive director. Ms. Barry comes to Morven from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, where she has been deputy director since 2012. She will begin her transition over the summer as she relocates to Princeton and assumes full-time responsibilities in early September. more

princetonchronicles

Princeton Chronicles, a group of student researchers and artists from Princeton High School, propose a community project featuring murals commemorating historical Princetonians from the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood. Princeton Chronicles invites the public to learn about the project by viewing an exhibition on view at the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts and encourages the public to provide feedback. 102 Witherspoon Street, Princeton. The exhibition runs through July 30. For more information, visit artscouncilofprinceton.org or call (609) 924-8777.

Art_Climate

“GHOST HOUSE”: This painting by Joanie Chirico is on view at the D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center through August 26. The exhibition titled “Art as Activism: Climate Change” demonstrates the role of artists in the climate change movement.

“Art as Activism: Climate Change” is on view at D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Johnson Education Center, One Preservation Place, through August 26. Art works document nature’s threatened beauty and show the influence of artists on the climate change discussion in the Anthropocene era. An artists’ reception will take place Friday, July 15, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.  more

Music_Blue Curt

BLUE CURTAIN RETURNS WITH AN EVENING OF WORLD MUSIC TO HEAT UP THE SUMMER NIGHT: Celebrating 12 years of bringing world-class musicians from around the globe to Princeton for FREE summer concerts, Blue Curtain returns to Community Park North Amphitheater in Pettoranello Gardens on Saturday, July 16 starting at 7 p.m. with Latin jazz legend Papo Vázquez, Mighty Pirates Troubadours and Sofia Rei, who has been called “one of the best Argentine singers ever.”

Featuring Caribbean and South American sounds, Blue Curtain welcomes Papo Vázquez Mighty Pirates Troubadours and Sofia Rei to Pettoranello Gardens on Saturday, July 16 at 7 p.m. The concert is free. more

July 6, 2016

dvd revOne-hundred fifty years ago this month Beatrix Potter, the creator of Peter Rabbit, was born in London. Peter entered the wider world in book form in 1902 and since then has reportedly sold more than 40 million copies in as many as 35 languages. Just to keep things in perspective on Britain’s place in that wider world amid the withdrawal trauma of Brexit, it’s worth noting that by 1903, six decades in advance of Beatlemania, there was a Peter Rabbit doll and a board game, the first items in a never-ending outpouring of English merchandise featuring Peter and his “Little England” community of friends.
 more