April 6, 2016

movie rev 4-6-16Annabel Beam (Kylie Rogers) was born in Burleson, Texas where she was raised by her parents on a farm surrounded by cats, dogs, goats, cows, and a donkey. She enjoyed an idyllic childhood there with her sisters, Abbie (Brighton Sharbino) and Adelynn (Courtney Fansler). However, at the age of 10 she began to experience severe stomach pains.

Christy Beam (Jennifer Garner) rushed her daughter to an emergency room doctor who diagnosed the malady as a combination of lactose intolerance and acid reflux. But when his course of treatment for those conditions failed, the frightened mother next took Anna to a a gastroenterologist (Bruce Altman) who determined that she was suffering from an obstruction of the small bowel which called for immediate surgery.

He referred them to a highly-regarded physician in Boston who specialized in intestinal disorders. However, Dr. Nurko (Eugene Derbez) had a nine month waiting list which meant the little girl was likely to pass away before her appointment.

Frustrated by her inability to help her daughter, Christy began to question her faith when Anna asked, “Why do you think God hasn’t healed me?” It didn’t help when some fellow parishioners suggested that the affliction might be punishment for sin. In response, Christy told her husband (Martin Henderson) she was through with church, at least until Anna was healed.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. So, Christy decided to go to Dr. Nurko’s office unannounced and convince him to see Anna. However, after the doctor examined Anna an MRI, endoscopy, and a battery of other tests confirmed that Anna did not have long to live.

Before they returned home, they were befriended by a waitress with a heart of gold (Queen Latifah) who took them on a whirlwind tour of Boston. The prospects weren’t good for Anna when she got back to Burleson until the fateful day when she fell into a hollowed tree trunk, hit her head, and blacks out.

When she comes out of the coma, lo and behold, her bowels have been miraculously healed. Furthermore, she tells her parents that she had just visited Heaven and met with her Creator.

Miracles from Heaven is a dramatic documentary adapted from Christy Beam’s bestselling memoir of the same name. Directed by Patricia Riggen (The 33), the movie describes a touching description of a miraculous event.

Very Good (***).

Rated PG for mature themes. Running time: 109 minutes. Studio: Affirm Films. Distributor: Sony Pictures.

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CLASSICAL BOOK COLLECTION FROM DOT & BO

Give your bookshelf a face lift with these gorgeous editions of your favorite literary classics.

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Record Rev_1It was around this time half a century ago that people began to suspect the Beatles of being the creation of supernatural forces. Had they signed a pact with Lucifer? The “more popular than Jesus” frenzy that led to the burning of their records in crazy America demonstrated that, yes, they were unthinkably, absurdly big. The “Paul McCartney is dead” madness caught fire for the same reason. Nothing less than mysterious death or divinity could explain the phenomenon; the resulting paranoia of disbelief had reached the “who really wrote Shakespeare?” level. All this cosmic commotion and they had yet to astonish the world with albums like Revolver and Sgt. Pepper and singles like “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Penny Lane,” “I am the Walrus,” and “Hey Jude.”

“Tomorrow Never Knows”

Fifty years ago today, April 6, 1966, when the Beatles began recording Revolver in EMI’s Studio Three at Abbey Road, a tall, elegantly handsome gentleman with no evident resemblance to Mephistopheles, and no pact signed in blood in his pocket, guided John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr to the top of Mt. Revolver.  more

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“FACES OF COURAGE”: This photo by Mark Tushman is among his collection of work titled “Faces of Courage” that documents disadvantaged women from the developing world. The exhibit is open in the Wilf Family Global Commons at The Hun School until May 13.

“Faces of Courage,” a photographic exhibit by Mark Tuschman is open in the Wilf Family Global Commons at The Hun School until May 13. The exhibit is a collection of work documenting disadvantaged women from the developing world, regions like East Africa, Latin America, India, and Asia. The exhibit is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or by appointment.  more

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PRESERVING THROUGH ART: Trenton artist, musician, and yogi SiriOm Singh (pictured above) hopes to show that seemingly disposable items can be revived and reused through his artwork. A collection of his abstract paintings entitled “Preservation” will be on display at the Bank of Princeton in Lambertville from April 16 until May 14.

“Preservation,” a collection of abstract expressionistic paintings by Trenton artist, musician, and yogi SiriOm Singh, will be on display at the gallery of The Bank of Princeton in Lambertville from April 16 to May 14. There is an opening reception Saturday, April 16 from 10-11:30 a.m. and a gallery talk Saturday, May 7 from 10-11:30 a.m. The show is open to visitors during regular bank hours. The Bank of Princeton is located at 10 Bridge Street, Lambertville. more

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Some things come back every year, like spring flowers and David Sedaris, who will be at McCarter Theatre on Wednesday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m. Sedaris is a commentator on PRI’s This American Life and best-selling author of “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,” “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk,” and “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.” To purchase tickets, visit www.mccarter.org or call (609) 258-2787. 

The Richardson Chamber Players closed its 2015-16 season with a concert of French musical bonbons at Richardson Auditorium, featuring a number of Princeton University music department faculty and students. Continuing a mission of presenting music one rarely hears live, Director Michael Pratt programmed a performance of chamber music from the early part of the 20th century which might have been heard in Parisian salons and concert halls. more

March 30, 2016

movie rev 3-30-16Unfortunately Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a disappointment. The picture was directed by Zack Snyder, who also directed the 2013 remake of Superman, called Man of Steel.

The first problem with this second movie in the DC Extended Universe series is its interminable 2½ hour running time that could have easily been trimmed to less than 90 minutes. For example, why bother revisiting the backstory about what inspired Bruce Wayne to become Batman, when the murder of his parents had previously been addressed in numerous other episodes?

The second issue with the production has to do with Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) being cast as adversaries for the bulk of the film. True, the source of the tension between them is adequately explained, but the audience nevertheless grows impatient because we’d much rather see our heroes resolve their differences and join forces to fight the real villain. After all, the detestable adversary, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), needs to be dealt with. Unfortunately this slow moving blockbuster takes forever to arrive at that epic showdown. Instead, we’re forced to watch the meaningless machinations of a convoluted adventure that is filled with atmospherics, action, and special effects.

Aside from this, director Snyder features support characters who have nothing much to do with furthering the plot, such as Clark Kent’s colleague Jimmy Olsen (Michael Cassidy), Perry White (Laurence Fishburne), and Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons). The film also features many cameo appearances by celebrities Neil deGrasse Tyson, Anderson Cooper, Brooke Baldwin, Soledad O’Brien, Nancy Grace, and Dana Bash who distract from, rather than advance, the plot.

More enjoyable are the roles played by Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). But by the time the battle with Luthor and his henchman Doomsday (Robin Atkin Downes) finally comes to a head, you’re so tired of peeking at your watch that you just want it over and done with as fast as possible. Make it stop!

A patience-testing blockbuster that adds up to much less than the sum of its parts.

Fair (*). Rated PG-13 for intense violence, pervasive action, and some sensuality. Running time: 151 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures.

Art Rev 1

“KU BI”: This artwork by John Witherspoon Middle School student Yihong (Nina) Li is part of The Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s “PSO BRAVO! Listen Up! Exhibit.” The exhibition is made up of students’ response in visual art and writing to composer Jing Jing Luo’s “Tsao Shu.” The exhibit is on display until April 17 at the Arts Council of Princeton’s Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street.

The Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s PSO BRAVO! Listen Up! Exhibition featuring student artwork and writing created in response to Tsao Shu, an orchestral work by Music Alive: New Partnerships Composer-in-Residence Jing Jing Luo, is on display at the Arts Council of Princeton’s (ACP) Paul Robeson Center. The students’ visual and literary works will be on display until Sunday, April 17 at the Arts Council of Princeton’s Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street, during regular gallery hours. The exhibit is free and open to the public.  more

Amos Music

Amos Lee will perform at McCarter Theatre with special guest Mutlu Onaral on Sunday, May 15 at 7 p.m. For more than a decade, Lee has been at the forefront of a new generation of singer-songwriters, drawing inspiration from James Taylor and John Prine. His hit single “Arms of a Woman,” put him on the map. His 2010 album “Mission Bell,” also reached the top of the charts. Ticket prices start at $25. To order, call (609) 258-2787 or visit www.mccarter.org. 

SPOOKS

Head of MI-5 Sir Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) with his most trusted asset Ruth Evershed (Nicola Walker) 

“Hold the right thought,” my father used to tell me. That dated variation of “Look on the bright side” didn’t count for much on the morning of September 11, 2001. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, we’re better off turning to Shakespeare.  more

Westminster Conservatory will observe the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare by presenting three faculty recitals in April.

On Sunday, April 3 at 3 p.m. “Shakespeare Revisited” will offer new compositions based on texts and themes of Shakespeare by Westminster composers. On Sunday, April 17 at 3 p.m. “Shakespeare in Song” will feature members of the Westminster Conservatory voice faculty performing settings of Shakespearian texts from the 18th to 21st centuries. These two recitals are part of the Kaleidoscope Chamber Series and will take place in Gill Chapel on the Rider University campus in Lawrenceville. Admission is free. more

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Programs in Dance and Theater present there.remaining… a dance-theater fusion of text, movement, music, and projections, created and directed by senior Ogemdi Ude and featuring original music by Lewis Center Resident Musical Director and Composer Vince di Mura. Performances will take place on April 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. in the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio at 185 Nassau Street. The production is free and open to the public, however, advance tickets are recommended and are available through arts.princeton.edu.  more

March 29, 2016

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Now that spring has arrived, there is no excuse not to take advantage of the beautiful weather. Whether you’re running, walking, biking or surfing, exercising outdoors is a great stress reliever. These products will help to track your workouts and progress, allowing you to keep a helpful record and to stay accountable of your daily fitness. Simply click on each product image to purchase.  more

March 23, 2016

movie revIt is Colonial New England in 1630, and William (Ralph Ineson) and his family have just been banished from the Puritan plantation because of religious differences with the settlement’s elders. The proud patriarch stoically prepares to move from the safe confines of the fort to an unprotected and undeveloped plot of land located on the edge of the forest.

Naturally, William expects to face some serious challenges in trying to overcome the harsh elements, especially since he and his wife, Katherine (Kate Dickie), have five children to raise. But as devout Christians, they trust in the Lord to help them. Still, they didn’t anticipate the host of supernatural horrors that were about to unfold that would test their faith.

Their troubles begin when their newborn son Samuel vanishes into thin air while being watched by his oldest sister Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy). William tries to explain the disappearance as an abduction by a wild animal, even though his teenage daughter has confessed to the sinful self-indulgence of pangs of sexual arousal. The twins, Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson), hint at Satanism, while Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) refuses to ascribe any evil to his big sister.

Their plight continues to deteriorate as crops fail, livestock produce blood instead of milk, and Caleb falls ill and slips into a catatonic state. At this juncture, inconsolable Katherine starts yearning to return home to England and even questions whether God exists.

Since this is Massachusetts in the 17th century, suspicions of sorcery soon swirl around Thomasin, in spite of her vehement protestations of innocence. However, this was a time when a rumors of witchcraft could have serious consequences for a young woman.

Winner of the Best Director Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, The Witch is the directorial and script writing debut of Robert Eggers. Thanks to the period costumes and palpable atmospherics, the movie generates an eerie air of authenticity. Also, the members of the talented cast are totally convincing as Puritans

Excellent (****). Rated R for disturbing violence and nudity. Running time: 92 minutes. Distributor: A24 Films.

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This painting will be among the artwork utilized in the illustrated lecture on March 26th. It is by Gio Botta Colomba and is entitled “Landscape Mountain Scenery.”

At his Bordentown estate Point Breeze, king-in-exile Joseph Bonaparte maintained the largest and finest collection of European fine art in America during the 1820’s and 1830’s, including works by Titian, Canova, and Murillo. His estate was dispersed by auction in 1847, and his paintings by Old Masters made their way to museums and private collections throughout the United States. Six of the paintings in Bonaparte’s famed collection were acquired and displayed by the Stokes family, who occupied the Trent House from 1861 until 1929.  more

book revUltimately we read in order to ­strengthen the self. — Harold Bloom

Like it or not, there will always be a market for self-help books. While readers whose lives have been enhanced by poetry and literature tend to patronize that seemingly inexhaustible genre, anything worth reading could be studied and enjoyed under the same heading. Taking the idea to the most enlightened extreme, it’s fair to say that that a wealth of “self-help” books will be on the tables at Princeton Day School between Friday, March 25 and Tuesday, March 29 at the Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale.

In an interview on bookbrowse.com about his book How to Read and Why (Scribner Touchstone 2001), Harold Bloom mentions being deluged with mail from people saying how pleased they are that he’s “writing about literature for the common reader.” As a result, he became aware of a need that he felt “highly qualified and highly driven to meet” for “a self-help book, indeed, an inspiration book, which would not only encourage solitary readers of all kinds all over the world to go on reading for themselves, but also support them in their voyages of self-discovery through reading.”

When asked how reading great literature can provide an alternative to the sort of self-help books that top the best-seller lists, Bloom singles out the stories of Chekhov because they have “the uncanny faculty, rather like Shakespeare in that regard, to persuade the reader that certain truths about himself or herself, which are totally authentic, totally real are being demonstrated for the very first time.” It’s not that either author “created those truths,” but that “without the assistance of Shakespeare and Chekhov, we might never be able to see what is really there.” more

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U.S. Senator Cory Booker will be at Labyrinth Books in conversation with Princeton University Professor of Religion and African American Studies Eddie Glaude on Monday, March 28 at 6 p.m. The program will be introduced by Alan Krueger, who served as chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and as a member of his Cabinet from November 2011 to August 2013. more

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Novelist, story writer, and essayist A.M. Homes, a lecturer in creative writing in Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, has received Guild Hall’s 31st Academy of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Arts. The awards ceremony was held at The Rainbow Room in New York City on March 8; the award was presented by singer, songwriter, and author Rosanne Cash. (Photo by Marion Ettinger)

Art Bird

“TWIST AND SHOUT”: This watercolor of a black and white warbler by Beatrice Bork exemplifies her award-winning bird art. Bork and fellow nature artist Michael Schweigart will be displaying their work at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville as part of the “Wild in Detail” exhibit from April 7 through May 1.

Beatrice Bork and Michael Schweigart celebrate nature in their joint exhibit at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville entitled “Wild in Detail.” Their artwork will be on display from April 7 to May 1 with an opening reception Saturday, April 9 from 5 to 8:30 p.m. more

Art Tawa

This painting by Bill Hogan is part of “The TAWA Invitational Art Exhibition” that will be held at RWJ Hamilton’s Lakefront Gallery from April 6 through June 24. The exhibition features the work of local artists like Hogan, a resident of Bucks County, Pa., who is known for his large canvases that explore color, shape, lines, and textures.

March 16, 2016

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(Photo by Philippe Antonello – © 2104 Focus Features, LLC)

2015 was a banner year for Christian-oriented movies, as over 30 faith-based films were released in theaters. 2016 appears to be following suit, with Risen, The Lady in the Van, and The Witch among the movies with religious overtones.

Directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh (The Stoning of Soraya M.), The Young Messiah is a Biblical story about critical events that transpired during a momentous year in the life of the Christ child (Adam Greaves-Neal). The intriguing historical drama was adapted from Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, a bestseller by Anne Rice. The foray into Christian-themed literature is a big change for Rice who earned Beliefnet’s 2005 Book of the Year for her work based on the Gospels.

The New Testament provides very little information about Jesus’s formative years, and this film convincingly fleshes them out. As the movie unfolds, we find Him living in Alexandria and behaving like your typical 7-year-old while His parents, Mary (Sara Lazzaro) and Joseph (Vincent Walsh), struggle with how to go about explaining the concept of God to His own Son.

We also learn that they have been living in exile because of King Herod’s (Jonathan Bailey) order to his army to execute all the young boys born in Bethlehem. The despot was determined to prevent the rumored Messiah from seizing the throne. Herod’s death allows the family to return home, although the obsessed centurion Severus (Sean Bean) is still searching for Jesus and sees Him lurking behind every rock.

Meanwhile, Jesus goes about healing His sick uncle, curing a blind rabbi, and bringing both a bully and a bird back from the dead. And He also performs many random acts of kindness.

However, He desperately searches for an explanation of these powers until Mary finally tells him about the Immaculate Conception, the Virgin Birth, and His divine destiny.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for violence and mature themes. Running time: 111 minutes. Distributor: Focus Features.

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Get those baskets ready!

Make Easter fun for the whole family with these personalized Easter gifts. Simply click on each item to purchase. more

book revHere’s a trivia question from left field: what do Allen Ginsberg, Philip Roth, C.K. Williams, Stephen Crane, Paul Simon, Sarah Vaughan, Chris Christie, Jerry Lewis, and Percy Shelley’s grandfather have in common? 

Answer: they were all born in Newark.

So was Leslie Fiedler, author of the landmark study Love and Death in the American Novel. In his essay, “Whatever Happened to Jerry Lewis?” from Murray Pomerance’s anthology Enfant Terrible! Jerry Lewis in American Film (NYU Press), Fielder recalls once working in a shoe store side by side with “a crew of losers,” one of whom was Danny Levitch, who happened to be Jerry (Levitch) Lewis’s father. Fiedler recalls that although Levitch was constantly boasting about his “rosy prospects in the theater,” he always seemed to end up working as an extra salesman. Fiedler thinks that the father’s habitual failure “must have haunted Jerry and fueled in him a relentless desire to succeed.”

In 1945, Jerry Lewis, who turns 90 today, was 19, living in Newark with “a very pregnant wife” and earning $135 on “a good week” in various Manhattan night clubs; his act was to make funny faces while lip-synching along with photograph records.  more

978-0-8223-6035-3_prEben Kirksey, Joao Biehl, and Bill Gleason will be discussing Mr. Kirksey’s book Emergent Ecologies(Duke $25.95) at Labyrinth Books on Wednesday, March 23 at 6 p.m. Emergent Ecologies uses artwork and contemporary philosophy to illustrate opportunities and reframe problems in conservation biology such as invasive species, extinction, environmental management, and reforestation. Following the flight of capital and nomadic forms of life — through fragmented landscapes of Panama, Costa Rica, and the United States — Mr. Kirksey explores how chance encounters, historical accidents, and parasitic invasions have shaped present and future multispecies communities. New generations of thinkers and tinkerers are learning how to care for emergent ecological assemblages — involving frogs, fungal pathogens, ants, monkeys, people, and plants — by seeding them, nurturing them, protecting them, and ultimately letting go.

According to Sarah Franklin, author of Biological Relatives: IVF, Stem Cells, and the Future of Kinship, “Emergent Ecologies is a great read. It is movingly written, methodologically innovative, and provides an intellectually rich account of an important and timely subject that will inspire, entertain, and challenge.” more