‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ Comes to Mercyhurst Stage

The Mercyhurst Theatre Program, under the directorship of Brett D. Johnson, Ph.D., opens its...

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Cordis Opens 26th Season of Music at Noon: The Logan Series

The 26th season of Music at Noon: The Logan Series at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, opens Wednesday, Sept. 23, with a performance...

City Scape

Arts & Culture News

BERLIN (Reuters) - If you could go back in time to change your city, what would you do? What kind of a place do you want to live in? Would you try to stop gentrification?

LONDON (Reuters) - London's British Museum takes a look at manga, Japan's widely popular graphic art form, in a new exhibition showcasing the works of different generations of artists.

BOSTON (Reuters) - A pair of skeletal sculptures that harness the power of the wind to walk strutted around Boston's City Hall on Friday at the start of the U.S. tour of Dutch artist Theo Jansen's "Strandbeests."

NEW YORK (Reuters) - British actor Clive Owen swaps Hollywood for the stage in "Old Times", making his Broadway debut in a revival of Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter's 1971 play.

LONDON (Reuters) - The piano used to play the glissando that kicks off ABBA's disco hit "Dancing Queen" will be one of the star attractions at a rock and pop auction at Sotheby's next month where it is expected to sell for up to 800,000 pounds ($1.24 million).

Sports News

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Caroline Wozniacki became the highest seed to fall in the upset-filled women's draw at the U.S. Open when Czech Petra Cetkovska stunned the Dane 6-4 5-7 7-6(1) at Flushing Meadows on Thursday.

(The Sports Xchange) - Carlos Gonzalez continued his home run barrage and Chris Rusin threw a complete game Thursday night as the Colorado Rockies pounded the fading San Francisco Giants 11-3.

(The Sports Xchange) - The Milwaukee Brewers finished off a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates - their second of the season - with a 5-3 victory Thursday night at Miller Park, which has been nothing short of a house of horrors for the Pirates since it opened in 2001.

(The Sports Xchange) - Kendrys Morales stroked four hits and drove in four runs and Lorenzo Cain hit a three-run homer as the Kansas City Royals outslugged the Detroit Tigers 15-7 in a game lasting two minutes shy of four hours Thursday night.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Simona Halep and Stan Wawrinka beat the heat with straight-sets wins to reach the third round of a sweltering U.S. Open on Thursday while American hope Jack Sock wilted under the punishing conditions, collapsing on court.

Science News

Gloucester, Mass. (Reuters) - Snotbot is a drone whose name describes it perfectly, it's a robot that collects snot, specifically whale snot.

ALMATY (Reuters) - A Russian Soyuz spaceship safely delivered a three-man international crew, including Denmark's first astronaut, to the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, a day after having had to maneuver to avoid colliding with space debris.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - A key instrument on a $1 billion NASA satellite has failed, reducing scientists' ability to capture data to measure the moisture in Earth's soil in order to improve flood forecasting and monitor climate change, officials said on Thursday.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists have discovered why TNT is so toxic to plants and intend to use this knowledge to tackle the problem of cleaning up the many sites worldwide contaminated by the commonly used explosive.

LONDON (Reuters) - Giving cheap aspirin to cancer patients may turbo-charge the effectiveness of expensive new medicines that help their immune systems fight tumors, experiments on mice suggest.

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

- Kate Hutchinson, Gwilym Mumford, Luke Holland, Rachel Aroesti & Paul MacInnes

Every week, Guide writers cast a critical eye over readers’ suggestions, no matter how ridiculous they are

Submit your ideas for reviews in the comments below or via Twitter @guideguardian

How good is that painting of a mallard you just saw? You don’t know do you? If it were a film, or a song, or a play, you’d be able to find hundreds of reviews. Nowhere on the internet provides reviews of paintings of mallards. Nowhere, that is, until now. (There aren’t actually any reviews of paintings of mallards this week. That was just an illustrative example.)

Every Friday, we take readers’ suggestions of things that deserve reviews but seldom receive the critical treatment. And then we review the utter nonsense out of them. So let’s begin.

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- Sam Richards

Show Me The Body ft Wiki | Richard Hawley | Legwork | Hooton Tennis Club | American Authors

PICK OF THE WEEK

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- Dave Simpson

Academy 3, ManchesterThe veteran trio, revered by Nirvana, deliver a wildly eclectic set with fret-melting, guitar-duelling verve

“There are the brothers Meat Puppets,” announced Kurt Cobain as Curt and Cris Kirkwood joined Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance in 1993, for acoustic run-throughs of three of the Arizona band’s songs. The broadcast introduced the band’s unique, almost genreless music to millions of teenagers, and was payback for a group who had blazed out of SST Records along with Hüsker Dü, and influenced Nirvana and many others.

Related: Readers recommend: songs about the wilderness - results

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- Andrew Stafford

With their fifth and definitive album, the Brisbane lo-fi four-piece have found the sound they’ve spent a decade searching for

There’s a moment in every great band’s career where they shrug off their formative influences and assume their ultimate form. Blank Realm – that brilliantly erratic Brisbane quartet made up of three siblings and a “spiritual brother” – have long been the sum of their parts: a sound drawn from krautrock, New York’s no wave, New Zealand’s entire Flying Nun roster, and those closer to home, like the Go-Betweens.

Illegals in Heaven, though, is their definitive statement, the album no one other than Blank Realm could have made. It’s taken them a decade to reach this point, where their rough beginnings have been sculpted into a perfect marriage of pop, art and noise. If there’s a comparison to be made here, it’s with Sonic Youth, circa that band’s masterpiece Daydream Nation.

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- Lanre Bakare

(Nonesuch Records)

Dan Auerbach’s “new” group isn’t new at all. A collection of longtime “musical compadres”, the Black Keys frontman has worked with the Arcs when he produced Dr John and Lana Del Rey, and there’s a familial feel to this album. Auerbach has talked about how this isn’t a solo project, and indeed, unlike his bonafide solo effort Keep It Hid (2009), Yours, Dreamily moves away from bluesy rock’n’roll. In fact, soul is the genre the album most often calls to mind. Out go the huge meat’n’two veg riffs the Black Keys are known for, in come slower reflective moments (Put a Flower in Your Pocket), and tracks that could have come from the mind of Dee Dee Warwick or the Stax records vault (Pistol Made of Bones). Auerbach becomes a perpetually lovelorn protagonist mixing his misfortune with classic American soul sounds and hints of Mariachi rancheros and 90s trip-hop (Nature’s Child). For someone whose main project has been criticised for operating inside very limited parameters, this album proves he’s at ease outside his comfort 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

Funny Pictures

Dont take life so seriously

Why So Serious…

The Melting Pot

2015_rock_on_the_range

Rock on the Range 2015

ROCK ON THE RANGE: ADDITIONAL BANDS, COMEDY TENT LINEUP AND ERNIE BALL PRESENTS THE ROCK ON THE RANGE BATTLE OF THE BANDS ANNOUNCED FOR...

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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...

books

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...

nousavons

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,...

Local Scene

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Missions of Interplanetary Space Probes to be Discussed at Penn State Behrend

Open House Night in Astronomy returns Thursday, Sept. 17  That galaxy far, far away suddenly seems a lot closer. Thanks to interplanetary...

Backstage Pass

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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 Town? Plan your weekend entertainment with our Weekend...