September 19, 2016

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Photography by Erica Cardenas

Beyond Words, the annual fall gala hosted by the Friends of the Princeton Public Library took place on Saturday, September 17. This year’s special guests were Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout and novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz who spoke at Nassau Presbyterian Church. After the talk, guests gathered at Hinds Plaza for a book signing and cocktails followed by a silent auction and dinner.  more

September 14, 2016

movie-rev-9-14-16US Airways Flight 1549 had just taken off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport on the afternoon of January, 15, 2009 when the pilots sighted a flock of Canada geese flying in their path at about 2,800 feet. The Airbus 320 was unable to avoid them and the ensuing collision with the birds disabled both of the planes engines.

At that point, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger immediately took control of the plane from co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) and told the air traffic controller about their predicament. After weighing his options in the next few seconds, Sully ignored air traffic controller Patrick Harten’s (Patch Darragh) suggestion to return to LaGuardia and instead decided to land the crippled jet in the Hudson River.

Thanks to a combination of calm water and the veteran Captain’s years of experience as a glider pilot and flight safety instructor, he managed to make a smooth landing in the river without triggering a fire or having the plane disintegrate upon impact. As a result, the 155 passengers and crew were floating downstream as the cabin slowly started to fill with water.

Sully ordered his passengers and crew to disembark into the inflatable life rafts and move onto the wings where they were quickly rescued by the commercial ferries and emergency vessels that were rushing to the scene. Amazingly, not a single life was lost in the crash that was dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

Directed by Clint Eastwood, Sully is not only a reenactment of the landing but is also about the subsequent investigation of the incident by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). We learn that while Captain Sullenberger was publicly being celebrated as a national hero by the press, the wisdom of his water landing was being questioned behind closed doors by the NTSB’s investigators.

The specialists who had been assigned to investigate the matter thought that the plane’s engines, at the bottom of the river, might have been operational, meaning that the plane could have been brought down at a nearby airport. If this were true, then Sully would have been reprimanded instead of praised. Ultimately, divers located the left engine, and the experts confirmed that the pilot did deserve his accolades.

Kudos to Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks for successfully conveying the courage, wisdom, and stoicism that were exhibited by Captain Sullenberger in the face of the impending disaster. Stick around for the film’s closing credits that feature a reunion between the real Sully and many of the grateful people whose lives he saved.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for peril and brief profanity. Running time: 96 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures.

 

book-revGene Wilder’s recent death has revived Young Frankenstein — not that Mel Brooks’s classic 1974 travesty of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) by way of the James Whale/Boris Karloff film (1931) needed reviving. You could stop strangers on the street in Princeton or any university town anywhere and soon find someone who could quote you a favorite line or describe a favorite scene. Even so, for all those who have not already revisited the 1974 film, it will be shown again on October 5 in a special one-night-only presentation in more than 500 theaters nationwide, with a “live introduction” by Mel Brooks.

A Bizarre Course

What takes Young Frankenstein to a level beyond the gags is Gene Wilder’s kindly, horny, out-of-it Dr. Frankensteen. While a stranger on the street may not be able to name the actor who played the monster (Peter Boyle), no one is likely to forget his loving, fatherly creator. In the new Rutgers University Press book, Monstrous Progeny: A History of the Frankenstein Narratives, there’s an image of a blissed-out Wilder cuddling his “emotionally needy creation”; his expression is the other side of rhapsodic, he might be Chopin caressing the score of a nocturne or listening to the music of the spheres. Co-authored by Lester D. Friedman and Allison B. Kavey, Monstrous Progeny may be the most thorough exploration of the bizarre course the Frankenstein myth has taken since Mary Shelley conceived it 200 years ago this summer. Besides tracing the stagings and filmings through the years, the book looks at “laff riots” like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, biological mutation movies like The Fly, reanimation films (Re-Animator and sequels), cyborg films (RoboCop), robot movies (Blade Runner and A.I.), and more. more

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ILLUSTRATED LECTURE AT TRENT HOUSE: Archivist and photographer Gary Saretzky will present an illustrated lecture on 19th century New Jersey-based photographers at the Trent House Museum on September 24. Pictured here is Edward H. Stokes. He was a photographer in Trenton and is one of the subjects of the lecture. He also resided at the Trent House for many years. His son donated the Trent House to the City of Trenton to be used as a museum.

Of the approximately 3,000 different photographers who were active in New Jersey before 1900, more than 250 lived or worked in Mercer County, most of them in Trenton. In a slide lecture, Gary D. Saretzky will profile these pioneers, including Edward H. Stokes who lived in what is now the William Trent House, and discuss them within the larger context of New Jersey photography in the 19th century.  more

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BARNS AND BEYOND: This painting by Lisa Walsh titled “Red Barn, Winter,” is representative of the artworks that will be on sale at the Annual Art Show and Sale at the historic Parsonage Barn in Cranbury. The exhibit features many paintings of the barns located on the site where the show will take place, as well as other Cranbury scenes.

Watercolorists Unlimited will host their annual Fall Art Show and Sale at the historic Parsonage Barn on Cranbury Neck Road, one block away from Main Street in Cranbury, on Saturday, September 17 from 10 a.m.–4 p.m.  more

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SWINGING SOUNDS: “It’s an exciting milestone year for JazzFeast,” says Palmer Square Marketing Director Anita Fresolone, who oversees the planning of this very popular open air jazz festival. Prominent jazz musicians will be on hand, as will an array of various cuisines from Princeton area eateries. 

The 25h annual JazzFeast will be held on the Green and the west side of Palmer Square from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday, September 18, rain or shine. more

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Acclaimed Irish actress Lisa Dwan will give a talk entitled “Performing Beckett” on Friday, September 16 at 4:30 p.m. at the Lewis Center for the Arts’ James M. Stewart ’32 Theater, 185 Nassau Street. Part of the 2016-17 Fund for Irish Studies series at Princeton University, the event is free and open to the public. more

McCarter Theatre Center will renew its annual tradition in December of 2016 with a reimagined version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. As part of this new theatrical endeavor, McCarter is looking for a new group of young actors ages 5 to 13 to form this year’s Young Ensemble.

Sign-Ups for A Christmas Carol Young Ensemble Auditions will be held at McCarter Theatre Center on Wednesday, September 14 from 3 to 6 p.m.  more

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MUSIC AND MIRTH AT KELSEY THEATRE: Virginia Repertory Theatre presents “The Princess and the Pea” at Mercer County Community College’s Kelsey Theatre on Saturday, October 1 at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors, students, and children. To purchase, call the Box Office at (609) 570-3333 or visit www.kelseytheatre.net.

Love will always find a way. It’s never been more true than in “The Princess and The Pea,” to be presented by Virginia Repertory Theatre at Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) Kelsey Theatre on Saturday, October 1 at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Kelsey Theatre is located on the college’s West Windsor Campus at 1200 Old Trenton Road. more

September 13, 2016

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The Manny L. Friedman Foundation has partnered with The Blue Man Group for their first annual fundraising event, which will be held at the Astor Place Theater in New York City on Sunday, September 25 at 1:30 p.m. The mission of the Manny L. Freidman Foundation is to make every animal smile! Proceeds from the evening’s event will benefit no-kill shelters nationwide. A Lawrenceville, NJ resident, Manny lived his 28 years with an unwavering commitment to caring for animals of all kinds. To purchase tickets, visit www.mannyfriedman.org.

September 9, 2016

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As New Jersey kids head back to school, join Room to Read: Central New Jersey Chapter this Sunday,  September 11 at 3 p.m. at Princeton High School, 151 Moore Street, Princeton for A World of Music Benefit Concert. Performances by celebrated musical artists Neeraj Prem, Cloud Nine, Nadam – Serenity in Sound, Jenna Rose Venturi, and more. Tickets are $20 for adults, $12 for teachers/students, and $5 for children ages 14 and younger. For group rates, contact raortr@gmail.com. For more information, visit www.roomtoread.org/centralnj. To purchase tickets in advance, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/a-world-of-music-tickets-26877560507.

September 7, 2016

movie rev 9-7-16Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) is considered by most fight experts to be one of the greatest boxers of all time. He earned his nickname “Hands of Stone” because of his punching power.

Born in Panama in 1951, Roberto exhibited promise from the moment he first entered the ring at the age of 8. He turned pro at 16 and won the World Lightweight title at Madison Square Garden in 1972 after Ken Buchanan (John Duddy) failed to answer the bell for the 14th round. Roberto went on to knock out over 50 foes and compiled an impressive 62-1 record as a lightweight before moving up in weight class.

When he retired in 2002, Roberto held the world welterweight, light middleweight, and middleweight titles. But despite that incredible feat, he is remembered for crying “No mas!” before quitting midway through his Welterweight World Championship rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond). And although he would eventually return to the ring, that one display of cowardice effectively overshadowed his subsequent achievements.

Written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz (Secuestro Express), Hands of Stone is a biopic that humanizes Roberto and puts a positive spin on his indelible stain. This version of his career blames Duran’s failing on his manager, Carlos Eleta (Ruben Blades), and pressure from the fight’s promoter, Don King (Reg E. Cathey).

In the movie, we see the backstage image of a burnt-out Roberto bemoaning his being exploited. “I worked all my life. I didn’t have any fun, when I was a kid.” He not only began boxing young, he also married when he was 17 to Felicidad (Ana de Armas), who was only 14. However, the couple went on to have eight children and are still together after 47 years.

If the movie has a flaw, it’s in the fight scenes which leave a lot to be desired. Anyone expecting cinema verite as in Rocky or Raging Bull, will be disappointed.

Robert De Niro plays the legendary Ray Arcel who came out of retirement, in spite of death threats from the Mafia, to train a teenaged Duran. He whips the promising protege into fighting shape, and it’s just a matter of time before Roberto becomes successful.

Very Good (***). Rated R for sexuality, nudity, and profanity. In English and Spanish with subtitles. Running time: 105 minutes. Distributor: The Weinstein Company.

book rev

I’m an actor, not a clown.

— Gene Wilder (1933-2016)

Gene Wilder made his acting debut at 15 with a small role in a high-school staging of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare was his teacher again at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 1955, and his first professional performance was as the Second Officer in a Cambridge, Mass. production of Twelfth Night. After studying method acting with Lee Strasberg, he changed his birth name to Gene Wilder because, according to a 2005 interview in the Daily Telegraph, “Jerry Silberman in Macbeth did not have the right ring to it.” more

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“RED HEADED WOODPECKER”: D&R Greenway Land Trust will host the premiere exhibition of “Conserve Wildlife’s Rare Wildlife Revealed: The James Fiorentino Traveling Art Exhibition,” on view September 12 through October 14. Former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean will be a special guest at the reception. Pictured here is James Florentino’s “Red Headed Woodpecker.” His works depict some of the state’s most endangered and vulnerable species.

D&R Greenway Land Trust will host the premiere exhibition of Conserve Wildlife’s Rare Wildlife Revealed: The James Fiorentino Traveling Art Exhibition, on view September 12 through October 14, with an opening reception Friday, September 30, 5:30–7:30 p.m.  more

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The Hunterdon Art Museum and Hoffman’s Crossing are partnering to offer a variety of classes and workshops focused largely on the environment and the beautiful space at Hoffman’s Crossing. (Photo Courtesy of Dennis Balodis)

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Suspend disbelief this September and be entertained by hundreds of performers at the 17th Annual Village Renaissance Faire at the Middletown Grange Fairgrounds, 576 Penns Park Road in Wrightstown, Pa on September 17 and 18 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visitors of all ages will enjoy performances of jousting, falconry, fire breathing, human chess, archery, puppetry, juggling, dancing, petting zoo, and more. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students. Parking is free. 

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PRINCETON FRENCH THEATER FESTIVAL: Antoine Mathieu and Marie Desgranges in “Ceux qui restent (The Ones Who Remain),” which will be presented on September 30 and October 1 as part of the Princeton French Theater Festival. Most performances will be in French, some with English supertitles, and are free and open to the public. Performances will be held at venues across Princeton University. (Photo Credit: Raynaud de Lage)

Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, Department of French and Italian, and L’Avant-Scène will present the fifth annual Seuls en Scène, French Theater Festival, which will take place from September 22 through October 6 at venues across the University’s campus. Most performances will be in French, some with English supertitles, and are free and open to the public. more

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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.

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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

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“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

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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

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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