Playhouse Named Best Community Theater

By Julie Caldwell The Erie Playhouse was recently honored by the Pennsylvania Theatre Guide‘s...

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PARIS (Reuters) - Five small bronze statues by French 19th century sculptor Auguste Rodin will be auctioned in Paris next week, including a cast of his celebrated "The Kiss", which is estimated at 1.5 to 2 million euros ($1.70-2.27 million).

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Harper Lee's classic novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" is coming to Broadway for the first time in a new stage version written by "West Wing" writer Aaron Sorkin, producers said on Wednesday.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Knoedler & Co, which before closing in 2011 was New York City's oldest art gallery, has agreed to settle a lawsuit over an $8.3 million sale of a fake Rothko painting, just as its ex-president was preparing to testify at trial.

LONDON (Reuters) - When acclaimed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon first saw "Portrait of Madame X", he was captivated by the painting that caused a social uproar in 19th century Paris.

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - One of the world's largest art fairs is venturing away from its Dutch home base for the first time as economic weakness in Europe and emerging Chinese and Russian markets leave New York an increasingly important source of wealthy collectors.

Sports News

(Reuters) - Peyton Manning's reputation as the National Football League's most bankable player took a hit when he was among 10 athletes cited in a lawsuit filed by six former female students against the University of Tennessee.

(Reuters) - Rookie Chase Elliott positioned himself as one of the favorites for next Sunday's Daytona 500 after becoming the youngest driver ever to secure pole position in qualifying at Daytona International Speedway.

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Italy's Roberta Vinci captured her 10th WTA singles title on Sunday after she outclassed Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic 6-4 6-3 to win the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy.

PRETORIA (Reuters) - South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel claimed an 11th European Tour title as he cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Tshwane Open on Sunday.

(Reuters) - American multiple grand slam champion Venus Williams collected the 49th title of her illustrious career by defeating Japan's Misaki Doi 6-4 6-2 in the final of the inaugural Taiwan Open on Sunday.

Science News

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - European scientists have given up hope of restoring contact with space probe Philae, which successfully landed on a comet in a pinpoint operation only to lose power because its solar-driven batteries were in the shade.

WASHINGTON/CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Reuters) - Scientists for the first time have detected gravitational waves, ripples in space and time hypothesized by Albert Einstein a century ago, in a landmark discovery announced on Thursday that opens a new window for studying the cosmos.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A century ago, Albert Einstein hypothesized the existence of gravitational waves, small ripples in space and time that dash across the universe at the speed of light.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - NASA's next cargo run to the International Space Station will be delayed for at least two weeks after black mold was found in two fabric bags used for packing clothing, food and other supplies, the U.S. space agency said on Wednesday.

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Researchers on Wednesday reported new evidence strengthening the association between Zika virus and a spike in birth defects, citing the presence of the virus in the brain of an aborted fetus of a European woman who became pregnant while living in Brazil.

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

- Luke Turner

Cafe Oto, LondonHot Chip’s Alexis Taylor and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore joined the experimental lineup for a night of fresh and focussed sounds

Too strange to fit in with their punk contemporaries, This Heat’s politicised, fever dream experimentation nevertheless earned a reverence that has led some to travel from as far afield as Japan to attend this reformation, exactly 40 years since their first gig. “All the avant garde are here,” observes one audience member.

Indeed they are. Charles Bullen and Charles Hayward (third founder Gareth Williams died in 2001) are joined on stage by some of the many who have taken inspiration from their legacy, including Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Daniel O’Sullivan of Grumbling Fur. Any concerns that This Is Not This Heat might, as the billing suggests, perform an abstract deconstruction of their work are dispelled as Hayward starts twitching behind his huge drum kit. He feels his way back into the music, before the fast/slow roar of Horizontal Hold crashes in. It has the spontaneity of improvised music, with fingers scrabbling over Korg and clarinet keys, but sounds incredibly focussed, taut and propulsive. The lo-fi sonics of This Heat and Deceit albums, recorded in a studio set up in the meat freezer of a south London pie factory, take on a new warmth.

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- Andrew Clements

Barbican, LondonCompelling performances by the BBCSO of two UK premieres, La Commedia and Mysteriën, highlighted Louis Andriessen’s fresh and economical approach

The BBC Symphony Orchestra’s two days of concerts devoted to Louis Andriessen’s music included two major UK premieres. La Commedia, Andriessen’s most recent stage work (a new one will be premiered at the Holland festival in June), is a typically wide-ranging and culturally allusive riff on Dante’s Divine Comedy. The piece, like its predecessors, blurs the boundary between concert hall and opera house: sometimes it resembles a series of dramatic tableaux, other times it’s more like a collection of secular cantatas.

Whatever the designation, it was a joyous, uplifting experience. The Barbican performance, conducted with wonderful clarity by Martyn Brabbins, was a concert staging. Directed by Kenneth Richardson, it dispensed with the film by Hal Hartley that was shot for the 2008 Amsterdam stage premiere and which was also packaged with the CD version two years ago. That allowed Andriessen’s magpie-like score, ransacking three centuries of musical history, to be relished fully, and we could grasp the texts in three languages more easily. As in the Amsterdam premiere, the soprano Claron McFadden was Beatrice, and the mezzo Cristina Zavalloni performed Dante; the Lucifer here was baritone Andrew Sauvageau, while Synergy Vocals supplied the chorus and the Finchley Children’s Music Group delivered the charmingly mocking coda.

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- Rian Evans

The composer’s early works brought out the best in the Gould Trio in this absorbing five-day Beethoven festival

Beethoven: Music in Revolution was the ambitious title given to this five-day festival, curated and performed by the Gould Piano Trio and friends. It offered an absorbing historical perspective on a composer who subverted rules, pushed boundaries and used shock tactics, as well as capturing his rigour and passion.

The Gould Trio’s recital of Op 1 No 3, and Op 11 with clarinettist Robert Plane, achieved a perfect balance of structural exactitude and lyricism. Pianist Benjamin Frith brought the same depth of understanding to a sequence of late Bagatelles and the Sonata Op 109. Frith shaped phrasing with Mozartean clarity while exploiting the drama of the music, in which Beethoven toys with expectation and surprise. On the following evening, Frith anchored a fine performance of the Op 16 Quintet, with the same wind players then gracing Beethoven’s Septet.

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- Alexis Petridis

When Kanye West’s album is good, it’s very good. So why does he spend so much time trying to show the world what a thundering plonker he is?

The 21st century offers a panoply of options for the pop star wishing to launch their new album. They can do it in time-honoured style: working the interview circuit, touring hard, keeping their fingers crossed for good reviews. They can go for the surprise approach and suddenly plonk it online without fanfare. Or, if they’re Kanye West, they can hire Madison Square Garden and charge people $160 a ticket to come and watch him play new songs off a laptop; show his new clothing collection in a presentation directed by contemporary artist Vanessa Beecroft that turns out to involve a lot of models just standing there for over an hour; give a couple of his famous speeches about the world’s failure to fully recognise his polymath genius and announce a video game that appears to entail the player piloting an avatar of West’s late mother Donda through the gates of heaven. West protested the games industry had proved strangely unenthusiastic about this latter idea, a state of affairs about which he sounded more surprised than perhaps he should have.

Related: Kanye West unveils new album The Life of Pablo at elaborate, 'ramshackle' event

Related: Kanye West bingo: a party game for The Life of Pablo

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- Kitty Empire

(Domino)

Psychedelic outliers like Animal Collective tend to set themselves up in opposition to pop music. With their obscurantist aliases (hello, Geologist), their expanding and contracting line-up (currently a trio), and their intrepid fusing of rustic campfire chant with layered, whimsical sonics, AnCo have, over a decade, carved out a busy hinterland all their own.

The song hooks are right there – upfront, not buried. The beats are crunchy and crisp

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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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Shortest Books Ever Written

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

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Playhouse Named Best Community Theater

By Julie Caldwell The Erie Playhouse was recently honored by the Pennsylvania Theatre Guide‘s Best of 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards, and...