September 7, 2016

Music Welsh 9-17-16

Lawrence Township resident and 2015 Princeton University alumna Katie Welsh (Lawrence High School Salutatorian, 2011) will perform at Trinity Church’s One Table Café on Friday, September 16 at 6:30 p.m. Welsh specializes in musical theater and recently made her debut in the New York cabaret scene. One Table Café provides three-course meals and entertainment on a “pay as you can” basis. Dress is casual and reservations are required by calling (609) 216-7770. Proceeds benefit the Trinity Church Hunger Fund. 

August 31, 2016

movie rev 3 8-31-16Who would ever think of making a movie about Barack (Parker Sawyers) and Michelle Obama’s (Tika Sumpter) first date? Richard Tanne would, and he makes an impressive directorial debut with this inspirational biopic that portrays a very eventful day in the lives of the future president and the future first lady.

The story unfolds in Chicago in the summer of 1989 when Michelle was employed as an attorney and living at home with her parents (Vanessa Bell Calloway and Phillip Edwad Van Lear). Barack had just finished his first year at Harvard law school and had landed an internship as her assistant at her prestigious firm.

Apparently, he was immediately smitten with Michelle. However, she had to politely remind him of the the office’s strict rule against fraternizing among associates. Nevertheless, when she refused to consider a date with him, he sold her on the idea of attending a business meeting with him.

After Michelle grudgingly agrees, Barack arrives late, and is not even embarrassed about either his tardiness or the gaping hole in the floor of his jalopy. He has also added a picnic, a museum visit, and a movie to their itinerary.

Initially, Michelle balks, but consents only after reminding Barack that “This is not a date.” Nevertheless, he presses on with his own agenda, with the Art Institute of Chicago being their first destination. And while enjoying paintings by the legendary Ernie Barnes, he begins broaching personal subjects.

The two continue to get to know each other over sandwiches in the park, with their conversations touching on everything from family, faith, blackness, and the meaning of life. So, Michelle had a pretty good measure of who he was by the time they arrived at the South Side rec center where Barack had worked as a community organizer.

The icing on the cake proves is be an inspirational, even presidential speech that he delivers to the people in the rec center. Michelle finally gives in, undoubtedly helped along by one woman’s (Deanna Reed Foster) approval of her as “the first sister” she’s ever seen Barack with. Next the pair heads to the theater to see Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, and they conclude the evening with a little canoodling while sharing an ice cream cone.

Southside with You is a syrupy soap opera recommended for Obama admirers. However, the predictable love story telegraphs its punches and its plotline is public knowledge. Overall, this plausible account of the blossoming of love between Barack and Michelle is a pleasant version of their romantic beginnings.

Very Good (***). PG-13 for smoking, a violent image, brief profanity, and a drug reference. Running time: 84 minutes. Distributor: Miramax/Roadside Attractions.

DVD rev

Responses to Stranger Things, the Netflix summer sensation from Matt and Ross Duffer, have placed the eight-part series in the context of 1980s pop culture, sci-fi/horror flicks, and the novels of Stephen King. There’s more of the same in Monday’s New York Times under a head that refers to how Stranger Things and another show “feed nostalgia with a historical remix.” If that’s so, then the remix goes centuries beyond the 1980s, which means that anyone patronizing the show should heed the message from Hamlet obliquely echoed in its title: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,”

In addition to Shakespeare circa 1603, Stranger Things evokes the 1970s by way of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the early 1990s through David Lynch’s network television landmark Twin Peaksmore

On the road between Kashmir and Ladakh. 2015

“GIRL WITH THE BLUE VEIL”: This photograph by Princeton Day School alumna Dede Pickering will be on display at the Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery from September 6 through October 6, 2016. The exhibit “Bridge Between Cultures,” features photos from Pickering’s travels to over 100 countries.

The Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery at Princeton Day School will have the photographs of alumna Dede Pickering ’71 on display in “Bridge Between Cultures.” This exhibit will be on view from September 6 through October 6, 2016, with an opening reception on Thursday, September 22 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Both the exhibit and reception are free and open to the public. more

Art_Monsters

“BLUE MONSTER”: Blue Monsters and so much more will be featured in Heather Ujiie’s solo exhibit at the Hunterdon Art Museum titled “Fairytales, Monsters, and Hybrid Creatures.” Pictured here is a 72 x 260” digital inkjet print on poly canvas. (Photo Courtesy of the Artist)

Ujiie’s large-scale digital prints present a unique blending of the classical and contemporary. Her solo exhibition, titled Heather Ujiie: Fairytales, Monsters, and Hybrid Creatures, runs from September 25 until January 8, 2017. The show’s opening reception will be on Sunday, September 25 from 2 to 4 p.m., and will feature an artist’s talk. more

-

The Peter and Will Anderson Quintet will be amongst the talented performers at this year’s JazzFeast celebration in downtown Princeton on Sunday, September 18 from noon to 6 p.m. The “feast” side of the event features flavors from around the world and the chance to enjoy paella, Korean tacos, crepes, and much more. Musical performances are free to attend and food vendors will charge accordingly. This is a rain or shine event. Learn more at www.palmersquare.com.

The New Jersey-based classical music ensemble Trio Cordialis will open the 27th season of the Greater Princeton Steinway Society on Sunday, September 11. The concert will take place at 3 p.m. in the Recital Hall at Jacobs Music, 2540 Brunswick Pike (U.S. Route 1), Lawrenceville. A social hour with refreshments and conversation with the musicians will follow their performance. more

Theater NJPAC 8-31-16

Dubbed “The Voice of Broadway,” actress and singer Betty Buckley will perform at NJPAC in Newark on Saturday, September 17 at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Buckley won the 1983 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a musical for her role as Grizabella in “Cats.” She also starred as Martha Washington in “1776” and Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard,” for which she received an Olivier Award nomination. Buckley will perform new material and favorites from her solo album “Ghostlight.” To purchase tickets, call (888) GO-NJPAC or visit www.njpac.org

The Princeton Senior Resource Center will host a performance by The Capitol Steps on Friday, September 30 at 7:30 p.m. at Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium. The fundraiser will also feature a VIP reception with cast members following the performance. General seating reserved tickets can be purchased through the University ticket office at https://tickets.princeton.edumore

August 24, 2016

movie rev 8-24-16It takes a lot of self confidence to remake the Hollywood epic that won the most Academy Awards in history. But that’s just what we have in Ben Hur, a fairly faithful version of the 1959 classic that starred Charlton Heston.

The films are based on Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, a novel published in 1880, that quickly surpassed Uncle Tom’s Cabin as the best-selling American novel at the time. The book’s author, Lew Wallace, was a Civil War general who had led Union soldiers at the battle of Shiloh.

His inspirational tale of redemption’s timely themes of family, freedom, and patriotism helped unify a country torn asunder by years of war and the Reconstruction. Its compassionate tone particularly appealed to Southerners because of its sympathetic treatment of slave owners that encouraged resolution by reconciliation instead of revenge.

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), Ben Hur stars Jack Huston as the title character, although he is overshadowed by the film’s narrator, Morgan Freeman, who portrays Ilderiim, a wealthy Nubian sheik.

The story is set in Jerusalem in the time of Christ (Rodrigo Santoro). As the the film opens, we find Prince Judah Ben Hur living with his mother (Ayelet Zurer), sister Tirzah (Sofia Black D’Elia), and adopted brother Messala Severus (Toby Kebbell), an orphan taken in as a child by the family. Judah also has a love interest, Esther (Nazanin Boniadi), although her lowly slave status makes their marriage unlikely.

The plot thickens when the fully grown Messala, by then a Roman soldier, unfairly accuses the Ben Hur family of an act of treason that was perpetrated by Gestas (Moises Arias), one of the thieves crucified on Calvary alongside Jesus. As a result, the family is separated and sold into slavery, and Judah ends up in chains, rowing in the galley of a warship.

He eventually gains his freedom, and starts searching for his mother and his sister Esther. Concurrently, he finds religion and is afforded an opportunity to even the score with Massala in a chariot race at the Circus Maximus. Fortunately, Ben Hur has wily Ilderim in his corner, who is the best horse whisperer
/charioteer trainer.

In spite of the distracting mob scenes and religious sermonizing, Ben Hur 2016 is nevertheless an entertaining variation on the original that’s well worth seeing.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing images. Running time: 124 minutes. Distributor: Paramount Pictures.

x1971-202

ADAMS TO WESTON EXHIBIT: Ansel Adams, American, 1902–1984, “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico,” 1941, printed 1943. Gelatin silver print. Gift of David H. McAlpin, Class of 1920. © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust.

When David McAlpin, Princeton Class of 1920, donated more than 500 fine-art photographs to the Princeton University Art Museum (PUAM) in 1971 — in an age when photography was still considered a reproductive medium — it became one of the earliest museums to commit to photography as an art form. In addition to these gifts of art, McAlpin endowed an acquisitions fund at the museum as well as a professorship in the history of photography at Princeton — the first in the nation.  more

Art Rev_PEAC

BLACKWELLS MILLS: This painting by Barbara Della Peruta pictures a cow relaxing in front of an old barn at the Delaware and Raritan Canal’s Blackwells Mills.

New Jersey artist Barbara Della Peruta is showing 35 original artworks at the Pennington Ewing Athletic Club (PEAC), 1440 Lower Ferry Road, until the end of August. more

“Negro American style” is defined by novelist Ralph Ellison as “the sudden turns, shocks, and swift changes of pace (all jazz-shaped) that serve to remind us that the world is ever unexplored and that while a complete mastery of life is mere illusion, the real secret of the game is to make life swing.”

For anyone looking to make life swing in this hot, heavy summer I recommend the elixir of Christian and Gray. While the joy and energy may be coming from long ago and far away, the message delivered by the electric guitar of Charlie Christian and the tenor sax of Wardell Gray is that the music of life plays on in spite of deranged demagogues, poverty and misery, mass shootings, and terrorist attacks. more

Music_LaShir

Dr. Elyane Robinson Grossman, music director at Sharim v’Sharot, is now holding auditions for all voice parts for the upcoming 2016-17 season. Weekly rehearsals are on Tuesday evenings from September through June in Ewing. The choir will perform at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia this November. The theme for the year-end concert in May 2017 is “Songs to Inspire Peace: Shalom, Saalam.” Sharim v’Sharot performs Jewish music of many era and styles at synagogues, concert halls, museums, and community centers throughout the year. Learn more at www.sharimvsharot.org and call (609) 222-4647 to schedule an audition. 

Daniel_Rowland_DSC_3284-®-Balazs-Borocz-_-Pilvax-Studio

Violinist Daniel Rowland

On Thursday, September 15 at 8 p.m., the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) presents The Seasons, Antonio Vivaldi’s popular The Four Seasons interwoven with Astor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, arranged by Leonid Desyatnikov. The concert at Richardson Auditorium features Daniel Rowland as violinist and conductor, leading the PSO through Vivaldi’s vividly depicted scenery and Piazzolla’s soulful homage infused with passionate melodies and tango rhythms. more

From the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan to the Top of the Standard in Los Angeles to Lola’s Trailer Park in Fort Worth, Tex., musicians are banding together for The Concert Across America to End Gun Violence on Sunday, September 25th. At Trinity United Methodist Church in Ewing there will be a full day of music, food, speakers, art, and peace, as part of this national effort.  more

so-pots-down

So Percussion will offer the first of two free performances in Princeton as part of their Edward T. Cone Residency at Princeton University. On Friday, September 16, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium at Alexander Hall, the community has the opportunity to engage in a striking range of music — from John Cage’s Living Room Music transforming household items into instruments, to the world premiere of Emeritus Professor Paul Lansky’s Springs.  more

August 17, 2016

movie revTanner (Ben Foster) and Toby Howard (Chris Pine) are brothers who are as different as night and day. The former is impulsive, reckless, and sociopathic, a combination that explains why he’s spent a long stretch in prison for a violent crime. In contrast, his younger brother is stable, sensitive, and chivalrous.

While Tanner was behind bars, Toby, who is divorced, divides his time between raising his two sons (John Paul Howard and Christopher W. Garcia) and caring for his terminally-ill mother. It’s no surprise that before she died, she cut Tanner out of her will and left a sizable estate to Toby.

Unfortunately, a shady loan officer (Richard Christie) had duped her into taking a reverse mortgage on her cattle ranch. As a result, the bank is holding a lien on her land which Toby has just learned is sitting atop a fortune in untapped oil reserves. However, unless the note is paid off by Friday, Texas Midlands bank will follow through on its threat to foreclose, “Come hell or high water.”

Of course, Toby wants keep the property and sign it over to his boys. Trouble is, he can’t raise the cash. As a result, he is considering breaking the law for the first time in his life.

Enlisting the assistance of his brother, who was just paroled, he hatches a plan to rob Texas Midlands’ branches until they’ve got enough cash to pay off the mortgage. The two proceed to embark on a spree aimed solely at branches of the bank that had taken advantage of their vulnerable mother.

However, the heists soon come to the attention of the Texas Rangers and the case is assigned to Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), a wily veteran who is only weeks away from retirement. Soon Hamilton and his Comanche partner (Gil Birmingham) are on the pair’s trail.

Thus unfolds Hell or High Water, a captivating, cat-and-mouse crime thriller directed by Brit David Mackenzie (Starred Up). Between Taylor Sheridan’s (Sicario) engaging script and the powerful performances by Jeff Bridges and company, this sleeper would be generating Oscar buzz if it hadn’t been released in August.

Excellent (****). Rated R for graphic violence, pervasive profanity, and brief sexuality. Running time: 102 minutes. Studio: Film 44/Sidney Kimmel Entertainment/Lionsgate/OddLot Entertainment. Distributor: CBS Films.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 8.12.05 AM

“HERAT AFTER TEN YEARS OF BOMBING,” Afghanistan, 1992. Archival pigment print. Courtesy of Steve McCurry.

When I wandered out of Friday’s heavy heat into the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, there she was, Afghan Girl, the banner image of “Unguarded, Untold, Iconic Afghanistan: Through the Lens of Steve McCurry.” Taken in 1984 at a tent school in the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan, the National Geographic cover photo won world renown as a symbol of the plight of refugees everywhere. more

Theater Piaf 8-17-16

Anne Carrere returns to McCarter Theatre on October 17 at 7:30 p.m. to pay homage to French singer Edith Piaf. Join “the Sparrow” on a journey through the streets of Montmartre during the halcyon Paris cabaret days of the 1940s and 50s. For tickets, visit www.mccarter.org or call (609) 258-2787.

Art Rev_1

“RAMESSES’ EAGLE”: Pictured above is one of the tapestries by Armando Sosa on exhibit at University Medical Center of Princeton’s Art for Healing Gallery through October 31.

An exhibit of tapestries by Armando Sosa — whose hand-woven artwork employs imagery from civilizations spanning several centuries and the entire globe — is now on display at the University Medical Center of Princeton (UMCP). more

Music Nashville 8-17-16

Clare Bowen (left) and Charles Esten currently star as Scarlett O’Connor and Deacon Clayborne on ABC’s musical drama television series Nashville. The two will perform songs from the TV show and their record-topping album at the State Theatre of NJ in New Brunswick on Saturday, September 10 at 8 p.m. In addition to the TV show, Bowen and Esten regularly perform at the Grand Ole Opry House. For more information, visit www.statetheatrenj.org or call (732) 246-7469. 

August 10, 2016

movie revFrank (Seth Rogen) is frustrated sitting on a shelf in a Shopwells supermarket where he’s cooped up in a shrink-wrapped package with seven other sausages. They pass their time speculating about what awaits them in “The Great Beyond,” meaning the vast unknown that is past the cash register and on the other side of the door.

They’re all very eager to be bought because they believe in the rumor that the store’s customers transport their groceries to a heavenly utopia where they enjoy lives of never ending bliss. Also, Frank has another reason he wants to leave, because he has a crush on Brenda (Kristen Wiig), the curviest of the Glamour Buns girls.

However, when they’re all about to be purchased during the blowout 4th of July sale, Frank learns from a returned jar of honey mustard (Danny McBride) that the rumor is all wrong. In truth, the food gets taken home and is eaten by the humans.

So, Frank sounds the alarm and warns that “The Gods are evil and they will kill us!” Unfortunately, the news falls on deaf ears, since the majority of his friends are simply too brainwashed to believe him.

However, he and a few intrepid souls make a break for it. They include Brenda, Sammy Bagel, Jr. (Edward Norton), Teresa the Taco (Salma Hayek), Lavash the Pita bread (David Krumholtz), Grits (Craig Robinson), Twinkies (Scott Underwood), and fellow sausages Barry (Michael Cera), Carl (Jonah Hill), and Troy (Anders Holm). What ensues is a rollicking exploration of religion, sex, and political issues from the perspective of these anthropomorphized grocery items.

For example, Middle East concerns are reflected in the bitter discussion about aisle space between the bagel and the pita bread — a thinly-veiled reference to Jewish and Palestinian tensions. Race in America is touched upon when Grits complains about “Crackers” in a tirade during which he bellows “They call me Mr. Grits!”

Co-directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, Sausage Party is an adult oriented cartoon. It’s a coarse and crude movie that deserves its R-rating. Reminiscent of of other equally outrageous animated adventures — Team America (2004) and South Park (1997) — this comedy will resonate with fans of politically-incorrect shock-fare.

Very Good (***). Rated R for ethnic and off color humor, graphic sexuality, drug abuse, and pervasive profanity. Running time: 89 minutes. Distributor: Sony Pictures.

2016 PST Fool For Love

BATTLEGROUND OF PASSION: Eddie (Matthew Seely) and May (Olivia Nice) can’t live without each other, but they know they can never live together in Sam Shepard’s conflict-fraught drama, “Fool for Love,” Princeton Summer Theater’s final show of the season at the Hamilton Murray Theater and plays for one more weekend. (Photo by Noel Valero)

Eddie: “It’s no fantasy.”

May: “It’s all a fantasy.”

 more

book rev

Do your thing and I shall know you.

—Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

When Gertrude Stein arrived in New York in October of 1934 after 30 years abroad, “her eminence on the American scene,” according to her biographer John Malcolm Brinnin, “was shared only by gangsters, baseball players, and movie stars.”  more