All An Act presents a hilarious and heartwarming comedy about gaining independence. by Rob Kocur...

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TOKYO (Reuters) - An award-winning Japanese manga artist, whose retellings of traditional ghost stories and depictions of the horrors of World War Two helped propel anime to global popularity, died on Monday at the age of 93.

LONDON (Reuters) - A live broadcast of Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh starring in Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale" was the biggest cinema box office draw in Britain on the night of the screening, the show's publicists said on Friday.

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Palestinian National Theatre, for three decades the leading performing arts and cultural centre for Arabs in Jerusalem, is facing potential closure after running up large municipal debts, its director said on Friday.

ROME (Reuters) - Five frescoed stone slabs stolen from a tomb in the ancient city of Paestum and trafficked by a notorious artifact smuggler went on display in Italy on Thursday after a 10-year investigation.

LONDON (Reuters) - British pop artist Allen Jones returns to the subject of supermodel Kate Moss in his latest exhibition in London, which once more puts the female form centre-stage in sculptures ranging from the hyper-realistic to the abstract.

Sports News

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's Oscar Pistorius will find out if he will return to jail when the Supreme Court of Appeal announces on Thursday if it will scale up the track star's conviction for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp from manslaughter to murder.

LONDON (Reuters) - Fast-forward to next July and picture the scene with great rivals Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Britain's Andy Murray going toe-to-toe in a thrilling Davis Cup quarter-final.

(The Sports Xchange) - The San Antonio Spurs went to Chicago on Monday ranked as the NBA's top defensive team, but the Bulls beat them at their own game.

(Reuters) - Andy Murray, who put Britain on top of the tennis world with victory in the Davis Cup at the weekend, says he has given up talking to the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) about the future of the game back home as it is a waste of time.

SYDNEY (Reuters) - OneAsia's continuing presence in Australia looked far from assured as the seventh season of the struggling Asia-Pacific golf tour drew to a close in Sydney last weekend.

Science News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - On a platform of rock jutting into the Atlantic on Scotland's Isle of Skye, hundreds of newly discovered dinosaur tracks are changing the way scientists view the lifestyle of some of the largest creatures ever to walk the Earth.

BERLIN (Reuters) - A European satellite launch to find ripples in space that can be caused by merging black holes has been delayed due to a technical problem with its Vega rocket, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Tuesday.

(Reuters) - Scientists have developed an improved gene editing tool that significantly reduces potentially dangerous "off-target" edits, promising an even more precise and efficient system for manipulating human DNA.

An experimental satellite slated for launch on Wednesday will test a technique to detect ripples in space and across time, adding a new perspective for viewing and understanding the universe.

Oxfordshire-based Reaction Engines are developing a new aerospace engine class that combines both jet and rocket technologies. They call it the greatest advance in propulsion since the jet engine; potentially revolutionizing hypersonic flight and dramatically reducing the cost of space access.

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

- Judith Mackrell

Lilian Baylis Studio, LondonThe singer makes a major contribution to a show inspired by her album of Welsh folk music, part of the bold dance company’s mixed programme

What a cheerleader Ballet Cymru have in Cerys Matthews. As the company’s patron, she’s not only gifted permission for their work Tir to be based on songs from her Welsh album of the same name, but she’s on stage with the dancers, performing the material live.

Viewed purely as dance, Tir is a maverick experience. As Matthews introduces each of the songs, she chats irrepressibly about herself and her connection with the company – a heroic product of Newport, which is “a town that even Wales forgets”. And she’s so winning a personality, so mercurial a performer (her voice ranging beautifully across the minimalist, raunchy and haunting styles of her material) that she distracts from the actual limits of the choreography. While Darius James and Amy Doughty sensibly aim to evoke mood rather than narrative, too much of the movement feels like a cute side order to the songs. Best are the solos, which evolve into a proper dialogue between lyrics and dance: a study in grieving staggered lines to a lament of unrequited love; a swaggering mix of disco and ballet to the song of an errant tinker.

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- Robin Denselow

The Forge, LondonArocena has a distinctive, passionate style and sense of humour, which could truly blossom with better material

Still in her early 20s, Daymé Arocena has already developed a distinctive, passionate style in which vocal skill is matched with an engaging sense of humour.

Barefoot and dressed in white, she began her set with one of the most inventive and furious displays of scat singing I can remember. Yelping and growling noises were mixed with fine soulful vocals and percussive effects achieved by hitting shakers, cowbells or her own body as she launched into a furious praise song for the deities of the Santeria faith. She was backed by a four-piece band, with two percussionists and bass, driven on by the British jazz pianist Robert Mitchell, whose earlier excursions into Cuban fusion have involved work with Omar Puente.

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- Andrew Clements

Wigmore Hall, LondonMehta’s coloratura is perfectly precise but unshowy and he is a relaxed and compelling performer

The Italian solo cantata, and the ways in which it was taken up and adapted in Germany and Britain in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, provided the substance of countertenor Bejun Mehta’s recital with the ensemble La Nuova Musica. But despite its apparently didactic theme, the evening never threatened to become a dry lesson in baroque musicology; Mehta is far too relaxed and compelling a performer ever to seem remotely academic.

Cantatas by Alessandro Scarlatti, Vivaldi and Handel provided the spine of his programme; compact intertwinings of recitative and arias that Mehta handled as perfectly natural dramatic shapes, and around which he placed other numbers extracted from larger works. He begun and ended with more Handel: the aria Siete Rose Rugiadose, from a three-movement cantata composed soon after the composer travelled to London in 1710 to begin; and the beautiful little Yet Can I Hear that Dulcet Lay from the late one-act oratorio The Choice of Hercules to end. There were also numbers by Johann Christoph Bach (cousin to Johann Sebastian’s father) and by Melchior Hoffmann, chiming bells and all.

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- Dom Lawson

Brixton Academy, LondonWith a reconfigured lineup and renewed commitment to the infernal cause, the LA metallers reclaimed their crown as the masters of darkness

When Slayer were last in the UK, the death of talismanic guitarist Jeff Hanneman in 2013 had visibly taken its toll. For the first time, the undisputed kings of evil thrash metal seemed vulnerable, and there were fears that the band would never be the same again. Judging by tonight’s performance by the reconfigured lineup, however, Slayer are back on the kind of form that made them such a revered part of the metallic furniture 30 years ago.

With able and effusive support from brutal Norwegian rock’n’roll tearaways Kvelertak and fellow Big Four incumbents Anthrax, LA’s Slayer could coast through their biggest anthems and still leave as heroes, but there is a thrilling intensity to the show that confirms their renewed commitment to the infernal cause. The stage is adorned with huge inverted crucifixes and the band’s logo, all bathed in bloody red or sinister green. It would be schlocky nonsense in the hands of amateurs, but Slayer’s trademark sound – all devil’s triads, slithering menace and jarring bursts of feral speed – more than supports the visual conceit.

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- Rian Evans

Hoddinott Hall, CardiffLed by Eduardo Portal, the percussionists had a field day in this continuing celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Welsh settlement in Patagonia

Newly returned from South America, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under the baton of Spaniard Eduardo Portal brought a Latin feelgood factor to this concert. Celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Welsh settlement in Patagonia had been the focus of their tour and, by way of souvenir, the flute concerto of Argentinian Lalo Schifrin was central to the programme.

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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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The Melting Pot


Rock on the Range 2015



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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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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Happy Thanksgiving

Would like to thank all of our very loyal readers, and wish each and every one of you a very wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday. In honor and...