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YPC Erie to Sing with Jim Brickman at Holiday Concert

‘On a Winter’s Night’ set for Sunday, Dec. 14, at Warner Theatre  The Young People’s Chorus of Erie has been invited to sing...

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Arts & Culture News

HAVANA (Reuters) - In Bob Nederlander Jr.'s mission to export Broadway to new markets around the world, he found an old one where the American art form lay dormant for a least 50 years - communist Cuba.

LONDON (Reuters) - Losing the use of her left index finger pretty much put an end in 2005 to the high-flying, globe-trotting career of Korean violin virtuoso Kyung Wha-Chung.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Blistering sales this week of Latin American art set auction records for 31 artists spanning three centuries, ranging from creators in the Spanish colonial period to living artists like Colombia's Fernando Botero.

(Reuters) - Wearable camera maker GoPro Inc is developing its own line of consumer drones, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

LONDON (Reuters) - With an epic sweep worthy of a J.M.W. Turner masterpiece, a new portrayal of one of Britain's greatest painters is winning the Romantic artist a new generation of admirers.

Sports News

SYDNEY (Reuters) - World number one Rory McIlroy said all he needed to do was cut the "bad stuff" out of his game for a really low score at the Australian Open after managing to par only five holes in a rollercoaster second round on Friday.

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's cricket board will launch an "immediate" review into player safety in the wake of Phillip Hughes' death, as the global cricket community mourned on Friday and the fate of next week's first test against India remained in limbo.

(Reuters) - The Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions both served up U.S. Thanksgiving Day routs to move atop their divisions while the Seattle Seahawks boosted their playoff hopes with a commanding win on Thursday.

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Adam Scott soared back into contention with a five-under par 66 in the second round of the Australian Open on Friday, claiming a course record that lasted little more than half an hour.

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Retired Brazilian soccer great Pele is in the intensive care unit in a Sao Paulo hospital where he is being treated for a urinary tract infection, but his condition is improving, the hospital said on Thursday.

Science News

(Reuters) - Radio telescopes on Earth will beam 90,000 messages to Mars on Friday to commemorate the launch 50 years ago of the first robotic probe to visit the planet.

LONDON (Reuters) - In a discovery that experts say could revolutionize fuel cell technology, scientists in Britain have found that graphene, the world's thinnest, strongest and most impermeable material, can allow protons to pass through it.

FRANKFURT/LONDON (Reuters) - The Western world's first gene therapy drug is set to go on sale in Germany with a 1.1 million euro ($1.4 million) price tag, a new record for a medicine to treat a rare disease.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - They snack on danger and dine on death, merrily munching on rotting flesh that would certainly sicken or kill any person and most other animals. But how do vultures do it?

LONDON (Reuters) - An international team of more than 100 researchers has mapped the genome of the centipede and found that, while it easily outpaces humans on number of legs, it falls short when it comes to genes.

Movie Reviews

As districts are devastated above ground, other struggles rage underground. We’re not just talking Woody Harrelson’s straggly Games vet Haymitch Abernathy’s problems with “prohibition”, either. With her role beefed up from Suzanne Collins’ third and final Hunger Games novel, how can Elizabeth Banks’s future fashion grotesque Effie Trinket hope to look ab fab in a rebel hold-out with serious wardrobe issues?

Given Effie’s egregious situation, it’s a wonder she looks as presentable as she does. For Effie, read Mockingjay - Part 1. Even with the odds against him, returning director Francis Lawrence joins sturdy-handed writers Peter Craig (The Town) and Danny Strong (The Butler) to mount a rich, punchy, well-paced treatment of a tricky novel: an unlikely victory comparable to felling hoverplanes with arrows.

After all, the outcome was never certain. If Gary Ross’s first Hunger Games flick benefitted from lunging fast into the arena, Catching Fire repeated the trick and proved it stood repeating. Now that Katniss Everdeen’s revolt at Fire’s climax has pushed the future districts into a climate of unrest, countered by state oppression, there are no games to play but political ones. This time, it’s war? Yes, but for unwary viewers expecting the fun stuff of bonkers baboons terrorising teenagers it could just be a bore.

The issue of division is equally sticky. Tackling an already divisive novel with the divisive decision (see The Hobbit, Deathly Hallows) to divide it into two movies, the third and fourth Games films raise a question: how many divisions can a story take without collapsing?

But Part 1 holds up, mostly, with Jennifer Lawrence doing some proper heavy lifting. On the page Katniss initially lacks her old spark, a point flagged on screen by District 13 President turned rebel Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) when she tells rebel-leader Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), “This is not the girl that you describe.” As Plutarch and Coin slowly coerce Katniss into becoming a symbol for revolt against the venomous President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) decadent Capitol, the plot rests less on scraps than strategy; less on action than debates about how to start the action; and less on Katniss than the absence of the girl on fire. With heavy doses of recap and semi-meta stuff about making propaganda movies stacked on top, the focus shift threatens to distance viewers.

But J-Law tugs us in to Katniss’ fraught humanity, invoking memories of Aliens’ harrowed Ripley as she wakes from troubled sleep in District 13’s rebel base. (And yes, the ginger cat is here.) These layers of trepidation firm up Katniss’ position as a reluctant hero we can engage with, not a superhero: qualities rare enough in some A fiction, let alone YA fiction.

Francis Lawrence pushes YA boundaries further as Katniss visits districts decimated by Snow’s army, where streets spill with skulls. When Katniss, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and a rag-tag propaganda film crew explore the devastated District 8, a makeshift hospital oozes with what censors like to call “injury detail”. If the reverence for Katniss among the wounded verges on cheesy, the rubble-strewn war-zone images and ear-bashing hoverplane attacks imbue Katniss’ subsequent big speech with a sense of high-stakes potency. As she “becomes” Katniss again here, Lawrence steers her fear and rage into air-punching “Get away from her, you bitch!” terrain.

If one particular District 8 atrocity seems torn from today’s headlines, the rebel debates about how to use the media as a weapon are equally, achingly of the now. But Mockingjay isn’t a course in Advanced Media Know-how: the two-part split provides the elbow room needed to flesh out a boosted character count. In his last bow, Hoffman invests Plutarch with weathered heft. Judiciously expanding the novel beyond Katniss’ perspective, added Coin-age benefits from Julianne Moore’s authoritative delivery. Good, no-nonsense ground-level support comes from Natalie Dormer’s Cressida, sort of Kate Adie with face tats.

Less successful is the decision to boost Effie’s role: like Derek Zoolander gate-crashing Fury to pimp a tank, she lightens the tone but draws sniggers. The vote’s still out (and probably out for good) on the narrative value of Gale’s charisma vacuum, though less is more for Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta. Seen largely through ambiguous TV broadcasts, his arc ranges smartly from turn-coat interviews with Stanley Tucci’s Capitol creep Caesar to well-administered shocks.

Even with the pace-dampening burden of time spent on Katniss visiting old haunts, Francis Lawrence makes up for the arena’s absence with punch-packing action jolts. The rebel assault on a dam is Lord Of The Rings-sized. Later, a tense night-time raid on the Capitol successfully splices sprawling effects work with grounding war-movie grit.

These beefed-up action beats are well integrated with Katniss’ viewpoint, especially when the Capitol incursion runs parallel to a tense vid-screen stand-off between two key verbal combatants. That poised weighting holds until the climactic cliffhanger, a better-paced send-off than the sudden drop that closed The Desolation Of Smaug.

Francis Lawrence faces more trials tackling Collins’ rushed finale in Part 2, but the two-film split could give him vital air, assuming he doesn’t go all Return Of The King on us. “I’m optimistic,” shrugs Plutarch at one point, facing a new dread. On the strength of this gutsy, considered rewrite of the Games’ rules, there’s reason to be.

Stills of Tom Hardy pursing his lips at a puppy might have made Twitter melt, but The Drop did well to change its title from Animal Rescue. This is no cutesy romcom or inspirational adventure but rather a downbeat, character-driven crime drama set in a squalid neighbourhood of Brooklyn. Facial stubble and handguns are de rigueur, for this, as the opening voiceover goes, “is where all the things happen that you’re not allowed to see.” Running bar for his Uncle Marv (James Gandolfini in his final big-screen role), Bob Saginowski’s (Hardy) life turns upside down when he’s robbed at gunpoint. The money belongs to the Chechen mob – they were using Marv’s bar as the drop point for their bookmaking business – and Bob and Marv need to get their hands on $5K fast. Enter Twitter’s favourite pup, found by Bob in a trashcan on his way home. The bin belongs to Nadia (Noomi Rapace), and the dog, it transpires, was stuffed there by her headcase ex Eric (Matthias Schoenaerts). Bob takes it home and begins a tentative friendship with Nadia, his actions inevitably met by sinister visits from Eric and an escalating tension that promises violence. The US debut of Belgian filmmaker Michaël R. Roskam (2011’s Bullhead), The Drop, based on Dennis Lehane’s short story, melds European sensibilities with the tropes of an American crime picture. The dilapidated setting and its hardscrabble inhabitants are observed with an outsider’s eye and an insider’s knowledge, while the narrative simmers rather than bubbles over like so many Hollywood thrillers. Gandolfini, in Nike tracksuit and leather jacket, is as tough and tender as ever, and a hesitant, slouching, mumbling Hardy evokes Stallone’s Rocky and Brando’s Terry Malloy – perhaps a little too consciously. Over-familiarity clings to The Drop, but it’s a crafted, admirable picture with a halo of hope around its melancholic heart – a melancholy deepened, of course, by Gandolfini’s passing.

With a title like The Imitation Game, you’d be forgiven for expecting a contemporary CIA thriller – rather than a carefully constructed character study of one of WW2’s largely unsung heroes. It’s centred on Alan Turing, the man responsible for cracking the Nazis’ Enigma cipher, thus helping end the war. Enemy dispatches, however, are not the only guarded secrets. Bletchley Park’s efforts to outthink the Germans’ most cunning device has been covered before in Michael Apted’s Enigma (2001), where Dougray Scott played a vague approximation of Turing. But this digs far deeper. Adapted by first-time screenwriter Graham Moore from the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, the story begins in 1952, several years after Turing’s moment of triumph, when the police (led by Rory Kinnear) investigate a suspicious break-in at his house. Benedict Cumberbatch swiftly and compellingly differentiates Turing from his other ‘genius’ roles – Stephen Hawking, Sherlock – though the latter flashes through when the narrative winds back to 1939, as Turing enters Bletchley for the first time. Arrogant and assured, he’s also uncompromising and unpopular, divorced from the Matthew Goode-led codebreaking team. When Turing demands to be put in charge, even petitioning PM Winston Churchill, it seems never in doubt that he’ll solve the riddle of the Enigma machine, a device that changes its settings every 24 hours to make detecting coding patterns nigh-on impossible. But this achievement, aided by Keira Knightley’s crossword-fanatic Joan Clarke and under the watchful eye of Mark Strong’s MI6 operative, is only part of The Imitation Game, which takes a darker turn with revelations that Turing is gay. The result is less a portrait of WW2 innovation than it is of a man drowning in secrets at a time when homosexuality was illegal. He even asks for Joan’s hand in marriage – but theirs was always more friendship than frisson. Given the frequent shots of Turing in training (he was also a marathon enthusiast), you’re left to wonder if he’s running from himself – or public censure. Director Morten Tyldum (Headhunters), essays the same attention to detail that fellow Scandinavian Tomas Alfredson brought to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. If The Imitation Game doesn’t emulate that film’s dazzling direction, it equally captures the texture of past British life and features a similarly exemplary Cumberbatch-inclusive ensemble. Only this time, he leads from the front, pouring body and soul into Turing. Cracking, you might say.

The world’s most influential film critic, the late Roger Ebert knew the importance of good direction. That Ebert chose Steve James to direct this exceptional documentary, based on his own memoir, says much about its subject’s character. Ebert always believed in cinema as a machine for generating empathy, citing James’ Hoop Dreams as a classic example. With full access to Ebert during the final months of his life, James brings the same insight here. Critical peers debate his legacy here: did Ebert’s famously populist, “thumbs up” approach to cinema dumb things down, or help to pioneer the internet’s renaissance in grassroots criticism? Meanwhile, directors like Martin Scorsese recount the double-edged sword of Ebert’s patronage: every good review a boost, every bad notice a blow. A truly rounded, complex character emerges, especially in the central relationship with TV show co-host Gene Siskel, Ebert’s equal and opposite. Yet, as the title suggests, there was more to Ebert than watching movies. James reveals parallel lives: the student editor who spoke out for civil rights; the rambunctious reporter nearly destroyed by alcoholism; the mischievous screenwriter behind Russ Meyer’s manic Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. James follows each facet thematically as much as chronologically; the mosaic resembles not only Ebert’s beloved Citizen Kane but also the treasured jigsaw puzzle that provides a stand-out moment. Latterly, of course, there was Ebert the cancer sufferer, robbed of his voice but reaching new readers via his blog. Ordered by Ebert to show “the full reality”, James achieves an unvarnished, desperately sad portrayal of this once towering figure reduced to frailty and discomfort. Ebert eventually becomes too ill even to reply to emails – yet the film’s power lies in its use of archive footage, voiceover and even Ebert’s computerised speech translator to keep the writer’s voice alive.

The feature debut of Irish director brothers Rob and Ronan Burke, Standby is a gentle, funny rom-com for which the term ‘heart-warming’ might have been coined. Alan (Brian Gleeson, son of Brendan) lives a dead-end life, manning the tourist-info desk at Dublin airport, when back into his life swims Alice (Mad Men’s Jessica Paré), with whom he shared a brief romance eight years ago in New York. Her NYC flight’s not till the next day, so he offers her a night on the town – strictly on a platonic basis, of course. Ok, you can guess how it’ll end – but getting there is a delight.

CD Reviews

- Clem Bastow

Blackman’s fifth album may very well be the one to finally catapult this Australian singer-songwriter to deserved stardom

Though she has not always enjoyed a slice of the spotlight that some of her peers (deservingly or otherwise) have, Bertie Blackman has slowly but surely earned herself a reputation as one of Australia’s most compelling singer-songwriters.

If there were ever a record that deserved to catapult her to proper stardom, though, it’d be The Dash, her fifth album, a stirring piece of pop wizardry whose shimmering arrangements surreptitiously deliver the songs’ emotional heft straight to your heart.

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- Dave Simpson

(Sony/Columbia)

AC/DC’s 16th album arrives after founder/rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young’s departure with dementia, and drummer Phil Rudd’s headline-grabbing charges for drug possession and making threats to kill. It’s easily the greatest turbulence the band has experienced since singer Bon Scott’s death in 1980. And yet, with Malcolm’s nephew Stevie stepping in, the music sounds as eerily untroubled as ever. Indeed, Rock Or Bust sounds like every AC/DC album since Back in Black: rock-solid rhythms over which guitarist Angus Young and gruff-voiced Brian Johnson do their stuff. Most songs have big, Highway to Hell-type choruses, three have “rock” in the title and many feature rude double entendres. Hard Times isn’t about recessionary economics, Emission Control isn’t a stand against global warming and standout Play Ball isn’t about sport. Not many of the tracks are as good as that one, but they all rock amiably and efficiently, and it’s hard not to marvel at their ability to keep it up.

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- Michael Hann

(Heavenly)

Terrible it might be, but King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard is a wholly suitable name for this seven-piece Australian psychedelic outfit, who metaphorically throw DayGlo paint at the studio walls without regard for taste – blues harmonica, double drummers, flute, beaty pop, heavily treated vocals – and see what emerges. They’re an extraordinary live act, and if their recordings can’t quite match that, their fifth album is still a ton of fun. They’re at their most exciting when they drone, but not in the mid-paced, two-chord way of so much modern psychedelia: their drone is played at Ramones pace, with Keith Moon fills from the two drummers, and thus the opening four tracks here meld into one 13-minute sprint through the inner wardrobes of your mind. It’s exhilarating, just as it is when they return to the hyperspeed drone for the closer, Her and I (Slow Jam II). Crucially, though, what comes in between is no disgrace either.

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- Jon Dennis

(DFA)

Toronto’s Slim Twig recorded A Hound at the Hem in 2010 and released it himself, but a wider audience beckons with this release. While his sound textures are rooted in classic pop – Shroud by the Sheetful’s harpsichord recalls psych-pop, while the strings and chugging rhythm of Heavy Splendour are straight out of ELO’s armoury – Twig pays scant attention to melodic conventions. Chaos and disorientation prevails, which at times, such as on Maintain the Charade, leaves us at sea in a mire of clashing instrumentation. A Hound at the Hem is unapologetically shambolic, but there are moments of high drama: the strings on Hover on a Sliver create an eerie tension, before the chorus shuffles along like an early-80s indie record. Even Twig’s voice is an unreliable focal point: he uses a range of different vocal styles, and can sing like Iggy Pop, Edwyn Collins, the Blow Monkeys’ Dr Robert and Bob Dylan in the space of the same song.

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- Caroline Sullivan

(Warner Bros)

Until the beginning of this year, Norwegian rappers Nico Sereba and Vinz Dery were a Tupac-influenced hip-hop duo. Their career-changing strategy, which resulted in the chart-topping summer hit Am I Wrong, was to drop the rapping and make a feature of their African roots (Nico is Ivorian, Vinz Ghanaian), while retaining a European pop sensibility. Black Star Elephant is the resultant concoction, in which clubby Eurodisco bumps up against Afrobeat drumming and chanting, while the MCs dispense inspirational truisms along the lines of “People will always be people to me.” It’s extremely easy on the ear – Vinz’s baritone and Nico’s John Legendish tenor entwine so gracefully that it seems perverse that they didn’t focus on singing from the start. (A sample of Vinz’s MCing skills on Another Day recalls Will Smith in Fresh Prince mode; even when deploring poverty in Ghana, he’s as sunny as they come.) The unwavering positivism of this cultural mash-up is compelling; if only they’d resisted the urge to include “motivational” interludes spoken in the style of a tribal elder, which nudges the album into the cheese zone.

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Book Reviews

Top 5 at a Glance1. THE CONFESSION, by John Grisham2. WORTH DYING FOR, by Lee Child3. AMERICAN ASSASSIN, by Vince Flynn4. THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST, by Stieg Larsson5. SIDE JOBS, by Jim Butcher

Top 5 at a Glance1. LIFE, by Keith Richards with James Fox2. BROKE, by Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe3. EARTH (THE BOOK), by Jon Stewart and others4. THE LAST BOY, by Jane Leavy5. AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN, VOL. 1, by Mark Twain

Top 5 at a Glance1. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, by Stieg Larsson2. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, by Stieg Larsson3. THE FINKLER QUESTION, by Howard Jacobson4. LITTLE BEE, by Chris Cleave5. CUTTING FOR STONE, by Abraham Verghese

Top 5 at a Glance1. THE LOST SYMBOL, by Dan Brown2. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, by Stieg Larsson3. THE RECKLESS BRIDE, by Stephanie Laurens4. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, by Stieg Larsson5. 61 HOURS, by Lee Child

Top 5 at a Glance1. EAT, PRAY, LOVE, by Elizabeth Gilbert2. INSIDE OF A DOG, by Alexandra Horowitz3. STONES INTO SCHOOLS, by Greg Mortenson4. THE GLASS CASTLE, by Jeannette Walls5. THREE CUPS OF TEA, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

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Dates Announced for 2015 PA State 8-Ball Championship

Local Pool Leagues Forming Now in Anticipation of Tournament The Erie Sports Commission is pleased to announce that the Pennsylvania State...

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Shortest Books Ever Written

1. HOW I SERVED MY COUNTRY by Jane Fonda 2. MY BEAUTY SECRETS by Janet Reno 3. HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN AIRPLANE by John Denver 4. MY SUPER...

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Internationally Acclaimed Book of the True Story of Two Holocaust Survivors is Now Available in French

Author and Holocaust survivor Leon Malmed kept a secret for more than 60 years – a secret he has unveiled in his moving book,...

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‘Send This Instead’ App Gives Kids an Alternative to Sexting

Members of the Ontario Provincial Police, Child Sexual Exploitation Unit in Ontario, Canada launch a sexting alternative app for teens...

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Find Out Where Your Favorite Band Is Playing

                Want To Know Where The Best Bands Are Playing And Where The Hottest Shows Are In...