July 20, 2016

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.


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


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.


“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.

In musical performance, the term “trio” refers to any combination of three instruments, often two stringed instruments and a keyboard. Prima Trio, which performed last Tuesday night on the Princeton Summer Chamber Concerts series, has put their own twist on this tradition by combining piano and clarinet with either violin or viola. Gulia Gurevich has expanded the range of Prima Trio by playing both violin and viola, joining clarinetist Boris Allakhverdyan and pianist Anastasia Dedik. Each of these players comes from a unique part of the world, and brought their multicultural backgrounds and solid training to Richardson Auditorium for last Tuesday night’s performance. The members of Prima Trio honed their craft at Oberlin Conservatory and through 12 years of playing together and touring, their performance moved from traditional to contemporary, with much of the program drawn from the 20th century.

Theater rev 7-6-16

VENEER OF CIVILITY: Two sets of parents come together for a rational, civilized discussion of a playground dispute that has taken place between their sons, in Princeton Summer Theater’s production of Yasmina Reza’s black comedy “God of Carnage.” (L to R) Maddie Meyers as Annette, Billy Cohen as Alan, Olivia Nice as Veronica, and Jake McCready as Michael. (Photo by Ogemdi Ude)

The setting is a fashionable living room in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn. The leather furniture is spare and tasteful. A large vase of tulips graces the elegant coffee table, which is covered with art books. An expensive-looking painting fills the back wall.

Two sets of well-educated upper middle class parents are discussing a playground dispute that has taken place between their 11-year-old sons. “Fortunately, there is still such a thing as the art of co-existence, isn’t there?” says Veronica, whose son has lost two teeth in the incident.

movie rev

The slave raids led by Nat Turner and John Brown are well documented in the annals of American history. However, the story of another abolitionist and insurrectionist has somehow slipped through the cracks. At least until now.

Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey), the grandson of a slave owner, was born and raised in Jones County, Mississippi. That alone should make him an unlikely person to mount a revolt against the status quo in the South. He served as a medic in the Confederate army during the Civil War, and was disheartened when he learned that the sons of large plantation owners had been exempted from the military draft. He was further demoralized when a fresh young recruit (Jacob Lofland) from Knight’s hometown, who had just joined his unit, died in a battle.

Since he couldn’t see any sense in a war where poor people were fighting to preserve the privileges of the very rich, Newt went AWOL, taking the dead boy’s body with him. He returned to Jones County where he was quickly identified as a deserter. After his wife (Keri Russell) abandoned him and his farm was confiscated by the Confederacy, he fled for his life, and found sanctuary in a swamp deep in the woods that was inhabited by a handful of escaped slaves.

There, he befriended Moses (Mahershala Ali), a runaway slave with an iron collar that had been soldered around his neck by a sadistic slave master. Newt, a blacksmith by trade, gained the group’s trust by removing the collar from Moses’s neck.

A naturally charismatic person, Newt quickly became the group’s leader, and founded the Free State of Jones that had four core principles that promoted racial equality. Gradually, their ranks swelled to over 250, with ex-slaves and disaffected Rebels joining them.

Thus unfolds Free State of Jones, a biopic written and directed by four-time Oscar-nominee Gary Ross.

Matthew McConaughey shines from beginning to end in the film. The drama is compelling, primarily because nobody knew that this revolt had occurred in Mississippi. a state known for its segregation and intolerance.

Very Good (***). Rated R for brutal battle scenes, an ethnic slur, and disturbing images. Running time: 139 minutes. Distributor: STX Entertainment.


June 29, 2016

movie rev

Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) was so shaken by her mother’s (Janelle Bailey) untimely death that she dropped out of med school. In an attempt to feel closer to her late mother, she decided to go to the same Mexican retreat where her mother told her she had been conceived. An avid surfer, Nancy plans to search for her mother’s favorite stretch of beach.

When she arrives, Nancy is so impatient to find that idyllic spot that she impulsively heads for the ocean with her surfboard, handbag, and smartphone, leaving her tired companion at the hotel. She gets a ride to the shore from Carlos (Oscar Jaenada), who is happy to serve as Nancy’s chauffeur and navigator. After depositing her at the secluded cove, he drives away. Nancy is not worried about being left alone, since she does have cell phone service. So she blissfully paddles out to deep water on her surfboard where she’s surrounded by a pod of playful dolphins as she starts riding the waves.

Things change when she spots the carcass of a humpback whale. What Nancy doesn’t realize, until it’s too late, is that she’s in the feeding ground of a shark.

She receives a nasty gash from the initial attack of the shark but is able to swim to a tiny nearby island. Her medical training comes in handy as she quickly fashions a tourniquet from part of her outfit.

However, with high tide coming in a matter of hours, she knows that she’s got to get to the beach before her temporary sanctuary is overrun by the rising sea level. The shore is 200 yards away, which is too far to swim with a determined predator steadily circling as her blood drips into the water.

Two potential rescuers (Jose Manuel Trujillo Salas and Angelo Josue Lozano Corzo) show up, but hope fades when they start swimming without noticing that Nancy is in trouble. The next beach goer (Diego Espejel) does see that Nancy needs help, and takes advantage of her predicament to steal her phone and other personal effects that were left on the sand.

So Nancy must survive by her wits, a daunting challenge given her situation. Thus unfolds The Shallows, an engaging thriller expertly directed by Jaume Collett-Serra (Non-Stop).

The movie borrows elements from Jaws, Castaway, Blue Crush, and MacGyver. The good news is that it all has been sewn together quite seamlessly into a movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for bloody images, intense scenes of peril, and brief profanity. Running time: 87 minutes. Distributor: Columbia Pictures.


After approving my 2000 Honda CRV for another two years last month at the Inspection Station, the DMV technician wants to know about my MOBY license plate — is it about the musician or the whale?

Since its inception 49 years ago, Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts has presented many fine string quartets. All-female quartets have been few and far between, and ensembles which can mesmerize an audience as well as the Aizuri Quartet are even rarer. The Summer Chamber Concerts opening event last Thursday night featuring the Aizuri Quartet brought a nearly full house to Richardson Auditorium to hear excellence in chamber music performance.

June 22, 2016

movie rev 6-22-16In high school, Calvin (Kevin Hart) was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” while his chubby pal Bob (Dwayne Johnson) was bullied by classmates because of his weight. However, that was 20 years ago, and a lot has changed since then.

Today, Calvin is thinking that he might have peaked during his glory days at Central High when he and his childhood sweetheart Maggie (Danielle Nicolet) were voted Homecoming King and Queen. The pair did get married, but their relationship’s been so rocky that she’s insisting that they enter therapy. Things are even worse for Calvin at his accounting firm, where he’s just been passed over for a promotion to partner.

In comparison, Bob’s fortunes have improved considerably during the 20 years. He lost weight, and with the help of weight-lifting, he has become quite handsome. Furthermore, he is having a successful career as a CIA agent involved in international espionage.

The pair meet again for the first time at their 20th high school reunion where Calvin is impressed both by Bob’s new physique and his daring line of work. Taking advantage of the situation, Bob enlists Calvin’s technical expertise as an accountant to help him in his latest assignment.

That’s the point of departure of Central Intelligence, a comedy directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (We’re the Millers). Kevin Hart has proven himself quite the master of the genre, given the success of such box-office hits as The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard and Ride Along 1 and 2. Unfortunately, Kevin and co-star Dwayne Johnson fail to generate any chemistry, even though they appear in scene after scene of silly slapstick.

The movie attempts to be humorous by contrasting Bob’s bravery with Calvin’s cowardice. But sadly, the laughs are few and far between during this underwhelming action-adventure.

Fair (*). Rated PG-13 for violence, sexuality, nudity, crude humor, and brief profanity. Running time: 107 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures.

The girl from L.A. had just arrived in Venice and was sitting at a cafe on Piazza San Marco being hassled by a Yugoslavian when she noticed a bedraggled individual shuffling across the great space, probably on his way to the American Express office to check for mail. His hair was long and scraggly and his jeans were baggy and halfway falling down, as if he had recently lost a great deal of weight. For the better part of a year she’d been exchanging letters with a guy she’d met in Berkeley; they had arranged to meet at the foot of the campanile on the evening of June 21.  more

Theater rev

Princeton Summer Theater’s (PST) 2016 season opener, Assassins, is chilling in its timeliness.

Just five days after a gunman assassinated 49 people in Orlando, the opening-night audience watched as nine characters — all wannabe assassins of U.S. Presidents — paraded across the Hamilton Murray stage, brandishing an array of firearms.  more

Art McCurry

“AFGHAN GIRL”: This iconic photograph by Steve McCurry will be on display at the Michener Art Museum starting July 16 as part of the exhibit, “Unguarded, Untold, Iconic: Afghanistan through the Lens of Steve McCurry.”

In an exhibition that opens on July 16, 2016, the James A. Michener Art Museum will present a collection of photographs by Steve McCurry, the photographer whose iconic image “Afghan Girl” captivated the world in 1985.  more

Art Ellarsie Open 33 6-22-16

Now is the chance to visit the Ellarslie Open 33 Juried Exhibit that will close on June 26. This painting by Sheila Grabarsky titled “Orange Segment” won the Douglas H. Palmer Award for Best in Show Overall and is part of the exhibition. Along with this piece are more than 180 artworks from area artists that are currently on view at the Trenton City Museum. 

This season Princeton Festival has undertaken one of the most complex and challenging operas in the repertory with Benjamin Britten’s dark but poetic Peter Grimes. Like the World War II years in which the opera was composed, Peter Grimes has many levels, reaching back to 19th century morality while drawing on fears and suspicions still prevalent today. The date of the opera’s premiere, in London’s first few post-war months, makes the genesis of this work even more remarkable.  more

Theater Frozen 6-22-16

State Theatre of NJ in New Brunswick will host a free screening of Disney’s “Frozen” on Tuesday, July 12 at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. The event is part of a Free Summer Movie Series at the State Theatre. Upcoming films include “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Babe,” and “Monsters University.” For more information, visit www.statetheatrenj.org

Music PSC 6-22-16

SUMMER COURTYARD CONCERT SERIES: Soul R&B artist Lindsey Webster will perform at the Princeton Shopping Center on Thursday, July 7 at 6 p.m. as part of the Summer Courtyard Concert Series.

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP), in partnership with the Princeton Shopping Center and Edens, presents the Summer Courtyard Concert Series every Thursday from June 23 to August 25 at 6 p.m. in the Princeton Shopping Center Courtyard, 301 North Harrison Street.  more

Dark Star Orchestra - Publicity Images - 2016

Dark Star Orchestra – Publicity Images – 2016 – Suzy Perler

The Mercer County Park Commission announces that “Dark Star Orchestra: Continuing the Grateful Dead Concert” is coming to Mercer County Park Festival Grounds on Friday, August 12. The concert will start at 6 p.m., with doors opening at 5 p.m. Tickets are $27 for general admission and are available now for purchase through the Sun National Bank Center box office. To purchase, call (800)-298-4200 or visit www.sunnationalbankcenter.com

Piano Winners

Over 120 young pianists competed in this year’s Princeton Festival Piano Competition. The 2016 Young Artist Winners are (l to r): Mia Huang, Petrina Steimel, Stephen Joven-Lee, Isabella Florendo, Kyle Huang, Angeline Ma and Linsy Wang. Jacobs Music was again the sponsor for the Young Pianists Competition, which has been a highly anticipated feature of The Princeton Festival since 2008. Lois Laverty and Glenn Smith were Masters of Ceremonies and Randy Brown from Jacobs Music Company presented the awards. (Photo Credit: Pia Ruggles)