September 13, 2017

By Anne Levin

Artist Maya Lin has been commissioned by Princeton University to create an installation for a section of the landscape at the new Lewis Center for the Arts. Details have yet to emerge about the substance, size, and scale of the work, which will “provide a landmark for visitors to campus and an invigorated outdoor setting for students to stage ad hoc performances and enjoy plein air classes,” according to a release from the University. more

Louise Feder

Morven Museum and Garden presents Louise Feder, assistant curator of the James A. Michener Art Museum (and a 2006 graduate of Princeton High School), in a discussion about the 1913 Armory Show and its impact on select New Jersey and Pennsylvania artists, on Thursday, September 14 at 7 p.m. more

The annual Artsbridge Annual Clothesline Art Sale will take place this Sunday, September 17, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Prallsville Mill in Stockton. Originally conceived as an opportunity for area artists to clean their closets of art that has been gathering dust, this event has evolved into a showcase of fine art at reasonable prices. The works for sale include paintings, jewelry, sculpture, photography, and crafts. All art will be priced at $300 or less, with most at a much lower cost. (Photo by Rodney Miller)

“FOCAL LENGTH”: This hand embroidery on linen piece by Daniel Kornrumpf is featured in “Intimate Lines: Drawing with Thread,” which runs from September 17 to January 7 at the Hunterdon Art Museum. An opening reception is on Sunday, September 24, from 2 to 4 p.m.

In “Intimate Lines: Drawing with Thread,” 16 artists wield a needle like a pen to compose intensely personal stories and record intimate histories. more

Tanya Gabrielian

NAMI Mercer presents a benefit concert at The Pennington School featuring Tanya Gabrielian performing works by Bach, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, and Gershwin on Sunday, October 8 at 3 p.m. Goodwill offerings will be solicited, with all proceeds going to support NAMI Mercer programs and services. The Pro Musicis Foundation and The Pennington School are partnering with NAMI Mercer to make all this possible. For more information, visit www.namimercer.org.  more

The landmark Hopewell Theater has re-opened after undergoing an extensive eight-month renovation, that includes a new lobby, box office, and concession stand, as well as a state-of-the-art cinema system with surround sound, prep kitchen, and expanded theater seating area and balcony. Now fully refitted as a deluxe showcase for music, cinema and the performing arts, the Hopewell Theater will serve as an intimate arts venue and gathering place for the greater Hopewell Valley area. more

September 6, 2017

By Kam Williams

Annabelle: Creation is the fourth film in a horror film series that features The Conjuring 1 and 2 as well as Annabelle. Because this prequel is set in 1952, well before the events which transpired in the others, you don’t have to be familiar with those pictures to enjoy this one, especially if you like having the bejesus scared out of you.

This horror movie has all the staples of a generic haunted house adventure, ranging from a spooky disembodied voice singing a cappella, to involuntary levitation, to a victim leaving nail marks in the floor as she’s dragged down a darkened hall by a mysterious force. The movie was directed by David F. Sandberg, the Swedish director who made an impressive debut last year with the thriller Lights Out.

As the film unfolds, we find dollmaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his reclusive bed-ridden wife, Esther (Miranda Otto), living in a ramshackle Victorian mansion on a mountaintop in the middle of nowhere. They’re still shaken by the loss of their daughter Bee (Samara Lee) who was hit by a car more than ten years ago.

To ease their loneliness, the inconsolable couple has decided to share their home with six orphans. The homeless girls are chaperoned by Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman), a God-fearing guardian who is grateful to get a roof over their heads.

The children are given free rein of the place, except for a direct order from Mr. Mullins to stay out of Bee’s bedroom. But of course that injunction proves too tempting for Janice (Talitha Bateman), a curious child who is suffering from polio.

Of course, she goes inside the room and thereby unwittingly unleashes a host of demonic forces that are controlled by Annabelle, a doll Samuel had originally made for his dead daughter. It isn’t long thereafter that all hell breaks loose.

Director Sandberg is adept at ratcheting up the tension. In fact, the spine-tingling movie has innumerable heart-stopping moments.

Very Good (***). Rated R for horror violence and terror. Running time: 109 minutes. Production Company: New Line Cinema/Atomic Monster. Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures.

Building Community through the Arts: Student-artist Victoria Wayland of Princeton, with the poster she designed for the Arts Council of Princeton’s 50th anniversary. (Photo courtesy of the Arts Council of Princeton)

By Doug Wallack

On Saturday, September 16, the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) will host a community-wide 50th birthday party, featuring food from local vendors, live music, games, a community birthday cake, and more. The event is intended to be a celebration of the organization’s mission: Building Community Through the Arts. more

By Stuart Mitchner

Sixty years ago yesterday Jack Kerouac’s On the Road was published, “a historic occasion” according to the New York Times, which called it “the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as ‘beat,’ and whose principal avatar he is.” more

“RGB”: This digital composite print by Kristin Furbeck is part of “Art in the Digital Age,” a STEAM-related exhibit at the West Windsor Arts Center from September 11 through November 3. An opening reception will be held on Sunday, September 10, from 4 to 6 p.m.

“Art in the Digital Age” is the second in an annual STEAM-related series (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) juried art shows held at the West Windsor Arts Center that explore the relationships of each discipline with art and open up a dialog and wonder related to the ways each informs the other. An opening reception will be held Sunday, September 10 from 4 to 6 p.m., and the exhibition runs through November 3.  more

August 30, 2017

The renowned bodyguard Michael Bryce’s (Ryan Reynolds) services were in great demand until one of his clients, a Japanese tycoon (Tsuwayuki Saotome), was executed. That botched operation simultaneously ruined his professional reputation and his romantic relationship with Interpol agent Amelia (Elodie Yung). His career took such a hit that several years later he was homeless and reduced to chauffeuring clients around in a beat-up jalopy.

A chance at redemption — and at winning back Amelia — arrives when she approaches him to protect Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). He’s the key prosecution witness in the trial at the International Court of Justice of Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), an Eastern European dictator who is accused of committing genocide.

Amelia has discovered that there’s a mole inside of Interpol who has compromised Kincaid’s safety. So, the only hope of getting him to court alive is by hiring someone who is outside the organization.

However, Darius is a vicious hit man who has murdered hundreds of people. Despite being disgusted by the assassin’s grisly record, Michael agrees to escort him from a British prison to The Hague where he’s scheduled to testify in less than 24 hours. In return for his cooperation, Darius’s wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek), will be released from prison where she has been since she slit someone’s throat in a gruesome bar fight.

That is the point of departure of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, a comedy directed by Patrick Hill (The Expendables 3). The film unfolds as an action adventure in which the two protagonists are impervious to harm from bullets, explosives, pyrotechnics, or boat and car crashes.

However, the movie works because of the palpable screen chemistry generated between Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds. And it does help that each of these indestructible characters has been humanized by a love interest.

The pair exchange lighthearted barbs while having a close brush with death every other minute as they negotiate their way through an endless gauntlet of assassins.

Excellent (****). Rated R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity. Running time: 118 minutes. Distributor: Summit Entertainment.

Singer-songwriters Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt will perform at McCarter Theatre on November 18 at 8 p.m. This is a rare opportunity to hear them together. Both artists have broadened the definition of American music incorporating elements of country, swing, jazz, folk, and gospel. Master lyricists and storytellers, Lovett and Hiatt’s songs range in topics from redemption and relationships to growing old and surrendering (on their terms). To purchase tickets, call the Box Office at (609) 258-2787 or visit www.mccarter.org.

On the age-old problem of how to begin, what better guide than John McPhee? In his new book Draft No. 4: John McPhee on the Writing Process (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux $25), he says “a lead should not be cheap, flashy, meretricious, blaring. After a tremendous fanfare of verbal trumpets, a mouse comes out of a hole blinking.” He goes on: “The lead — like the title — should be a flashlight that shines down into the story.” And then: “A lead is good not because it dances, fires cannons, or whistles like a train but because it is absolute to what follows.” more

PLAINSBORO ARTS FESTIVAL: Local artist Nelly Kouzmina, center, demonstrated the art of felt making at last year’s Arts Festival at the Plainsboro Public Library. Ms. Kouzmina and many other artists will be on hand for this year’s festival, to be held on Saturday, September 16 from noon-4 p.m.

Local artists will take center stage at the Plainsboro Public Library on Saturday, September 16, when the library holds its annual Arts Festival from noon — 4 p.m. The festival will feature resident artists and members of the Plainsboro Library Artists’ Group. In addition to showing their work in a variety of media, they will also demonstrate their techniques and will help visitors develop their own artwork to take home.  more

“WONDER WOMAN”: A ceramic piece by Ingrid Jordan is among the works featured in the “2017 MCCC Visual Arts Faculty Exhibit,” on display at the Mercer County Community College Gallery through September 28. An opening reception takes place August 30 from 5 to 7 p.m.

The Gallery at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) puts its own faculty in the spotlight for the “2017 MCCC Visual Arts Faculty Exhibit.” The show runs through Thursday, September 28. The community is invited to an opening reception on Wednesday, August 30 from 5 to 7 p.m. The gallery is located on the second floor of the Communications Building on the college’s West Windsor campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road. more

“PRECIOUS”: This photograph by Andrew Wilkinson won Best in Show, Mercer County Photography 2015. This year’s juried competition will take place October 26 through December 8 at the Silva Gallery of Art at The Pennington School.

Attention, photographers! “Mercer County Photography 2017,” a juried competition, will take place October 26 through December 8 at the Silva Gallery of Art at The Pennington School. more

The Center for Contemporary Art’s fall schedule of art classes and workshops begins September 11 and runs through December. There are over 45 classes and workshops for adults and over 15 classes for children ages 5 through teens. Classes are offered for artists with all levels of expertise in a variety of media including oil and acrylic paint, watercolor, drawing, photography, and ceramics.  more

FRENCH THEATER FESTIVAL: “Seuls en Scène” French Theater Festival begins with Nicolas Truong’s “Interview,” featuring Judith Henry and Nicolas Bouchaud, on September 15 and 16 at 8 p.m. at the Matthews Acting Studio, 185 Nassau Street. (Photo by Mathilde Priolet)

Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, Department of French and Italian, and L’Avant-Scène will present the sixth annual Seuls en Scène French Theater Festival, which will take place from September 15 to 30 at venues across the University’s campus. Some performances will be in English, while others will be in French with English subtitles; all are free and open to the public. more

August 23, 2017

Laurie Chambers (Katheryn Winnick) is understandably worried about her 11-year-old son’s recurring nightmares. In them, her son Jake (Tom Taylor) is becoming convinced that the demise of Earth is imminent.

So, she takes him to a psychiatrist who diagnoses Jake’s visions as delusional and has him committed to a mental health facility. However, Jake really is psychic, and he is accurately forecasting the impending extinction of life on Earth.

The planet’s only hope of averting this apocalypse rests on the shoulders, or more precisely, on the trigger fingers of Roland Deschain (Idris Elba). He’s the last in a long line of gunslingers from another dimension who have been locked in mortal conflict with forces that are led by Randall Flagg (Matthew McConaughey), an evil sorcerer who is on a quest for infinite power. World domination by him is attainable if Randall can reach the Dark Tower, the nexus between time and space that is located in a parallel universe called End-World.

Soon the mysterious figures in Jake’s dreams begin to materialize on the streets of Manhattan. After Randall’s minions murder Jake’s mother, the boy is rescued by Roland. The two escape through a portal to Mid-World where the epic battle to preserve life on Earth unfolds.

That is the point of departure of The Dark Tower, an adaptation of Stephen King’s magnum opus of the same name. The science fiction series was inspired by “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,” a poem written by Robert Browning in 1855. King also cites Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns, and the legend of King Arthur as major influences.

The Dark Tower took a circuitous route to becoming a movie. The story was originally optioned by J.J. Abrams in 2007. Ron Howard subsequently acquired the rights in 2010. However, the picture was ultimately written and directed by Nikolaj Arcel, whose A Royal Affair was nominated in 2013 for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category.

This movie is Mr. Arcel’s first English language film, which is why he received help with the screenplay from three scriptwriters that includes Oscar winner Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind). The final production is engaging enough to establish the franchise and leave you anticipating a sequel.

Very Good (***). Rated PG-13 for action, gun violence, and mature themes.

Running time: 95 minutes. Production Studio: Sony/Media Rights Capital/Imagine Entertainment/Weed Road. Distributor: Sony Pictures.

The first time my wife and I saw Bonnie and Clyde, the gunfire-driven dance of death at the end left us limp, wiped out, we couldn’t move. We’d been married less than a year. For a couple destined to see thousands of films together over the next 50 years, it was a defining moment. If one of us had started to get right up and leave as if it had been “just another movie” or if one of us had raved about it only to be greeted by a blank look, it wouldn’t have augured well for the future of the marriage. more

CELEBRATING THE ARTS: Now in its 26th year, the Doylestown Arts Festival will feature 160 juried artists, live music on five stages, local food vendors, art-making, interactive demonstrations, and bike races. The festival will be held on Doylestown’s downtown streets from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 9 and Sunday, September 10.

Recognized for its picturesque setting and rich year-round arts and culture offerings, the small town of Doylestown, Pa., will once again host the Doylestown Arts Festival, a two-day celebration that is expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors from the Mid-Atlantic region. The festival will be held on Doylestown’s downtown streets — converted to pedestrian-only avenues during the event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 9 and Sunday, September 10. more

PHILIP GLASS AT 80: Pianist Paul Barnes (right) will perform music of Philip Glass in a recital titled “Philip Glass at 80: A Retrospective” Saturday, September 9 at 8 p.m. in Bristol Chapel on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. Admission is free.

Pianist Paul Barnes will present a recital titled “Philip Glass at 80: A Retrospective” on Friday, September 9 at 8 p.m. in Bristol Chapel on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. Admission is free. more

Michael Shannon stars in A Red Orchid Theatre’s “Simpatico” coming to McCarter Theatre, September 8 through October 15, 2017. The tragicomedy explores the slippery netherworld of thoroughbred racing from Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Sam Shepard. For tickets, visit www.mccarter.org or call (609) 258-2787. (Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow)

Pianist Clipper Erickson will open the Westminster Conservatory 2017-18 Faculty Recital Series with a performance titled “The Russian American Connection” on Sunday, September 17 at 3 p.m. in Bristol Chapel on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. Admission is free. more

August 16, 2017

Karla (Halle Berry) is a stressed single-mom who is working as a waitress in a diner. Of course she’d rather be spending her time with her young son, Frankie (Sage Correa). Fortunately, he’s patiently waiting right there in the restaurant for her overtime shift to end.

After she finally gets off work, the two drive to an amusement park for what they expect will be a fun-filled afternoon. We also learn that Karla’s in the midst of bitter custody battle for Frankie with her vindictive ex-husband (Jason George).

That explains why she moves a few feet away from Frankie for a little privacy when she gets a call from her divorce attorney.

Unfortunately, her attention from her son is distracted enough to afford a lurking kidnapper (Chris McGinn) an opportunity to pounce. Next thing you know, Frankie is being dragged to a waiting getaway car.

Karla frantically rushes after them into the parking lot, and in her distress, she drops her cell phone before she spots a suspicious Mustang GT with tinted windows and no license plates rushing out of the parking lot. Karla frantically decides to chase the car.

What ensues is an extended chase scene that lasts the rest of the movie. So unfolds Kidnap, a low-budget movie directed by Luis Prieto (Pusher). Although the plot has comical holes big enough for Karla to drive her car through, the picture nevertheless is compelling thanks to a combination of heart-pounding action scenes and the protagonists’ convincing portrayal of their desperation to be reunited.

Very Good (***). Rated R for violence, profanity, and scenes of peril. Running time: 95 minutes. Production Studio: Well Go USA Entertainment / Gold Star / 606 Films / Lotus Entertainment. Distributor: Aviron Pictures.