X marks the spot
The Southside Film Festival (SSFF) is underway.
You may have seen those posters with the big red "X" on them.
The X isn't for the MPAA ratings of the films being shown at the SSFF.
Rather, X is the roman numeral 10, as in the SSFF 10th anniversary.
The X also marks the spot, or screening locations, for more than 57 films, through June 15, Broughal Middle School auditorium, Victory Fire House, Lehigh University Sinclair Lab Auditorium and Godfrey Daniels, all south side Bethlehem.
There's not a lot of magic in "Now You See Me," even though the film's milieu is prestidigitation.
There are digital special effects aplenty the kind of cinematic magic we expect in sci-fi, fantasy and action films.
The special effects cannot distract from a weak screenplay with half-baked plot and lack of character development.
"Now You See Me" inadvertently proves a motto said in the film by one of the magicians: "The closer you look, the less you see."
The animated family feature movie,"Epic," is beautiful, especially in the 3D format in which it was seen for this review.
Unfortunately, "Epic" lacks a cohesive storyline, the clever dialogue we've grown accustomed to in animated features and memorable animated characters.
That's not good. The art form is, after all, about character animation.
Moreover, the concept for "Epic" is ill-conceived.
"Star Trek Into Darkness" is that all-too-often rare sci-fi movie that has spectacular special effects, a screenplay with an actual storyline, character development and surprise plot turns.
J. J. Abrams ("Star Trek," 2009; TV's "Aliens," "Lost"), directs a screenplay by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman ("Transformers," 2007, 2009; "Star Trek," 2009) and Damon Lindelof ("World War Z," "Prometheus," "Cowboys & Aliens," TV's "Lost") that mixes action set pieces and character-driven scenes.
Most of us have read "The Great Gatsby," or are familiar with F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 book, esteemed by many literary experts as "The Great American Novel."
Several versions of "Gatsby" have made it to the big and small screen, including a 1926 silent film disparaged by none other than Zelda and F. Scott, and a 1974 movie starring Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby.
When Frank Ferrante performs "An Evening with Groucho," 8 p.m. May 18, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown, the ghost of Groucho may be with him.
First, a personal aside. My father, Paul, once told me that when he was an usher at Miller Symphony Hall (then The Lyric), the Four Marx Brothers (Groucho, Chico, Harpo and, Zeppo) performed their musical-comedy, "The Cocoanuts," there before it was a Broadway hit (1925 - '26) and film (1929). Allentown was a "try-out town," where Broadway-bound shows or stage acts were tested for audience reaction.
Instead of teaching to the test, the Young Playwrights' Festival reaches for the stage.
The creative process, the writing and the plays' staging are key to its success, says Mary Wright, Touchstone Theatre Ensemble Associate and Young Playwrights Lab Coordinator:
"With schools' budgets getting cut further and further, anytime the arts can get reintroduced to the schools is a big deal."
Everyone saw it on the program: "Allentown."
And when the time arrived to perform the song which landed Billy Joel on the Top 20 charts and in hot water with Allentown officials, piano man Joe Boucher couldn't have put it better.
"I grew up in a factory town. And when I heard this song, it spoke to me," Boucher said in introducing the song from Billy Joel's 1982 "Nylon Curtain" album that reached No. 17 and charted for six weeks in Billboard.
"The song has had a major place in my heart and it's so great to be here and see that Allentown's thriving," Boucher said.
"Oblivion" is a stunning sci-fi thriller that transports you to another world: Earth in the not two-distant future.
The year is 2077, intones Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) in the prologue. An alien invasion has made the planet uninhabitable, he tells us. Surviving humans have fled to Triton, a moon of Saturn.
Harper is a kind of space-age mechanic. Only, instead of repairing cars, he repairs drones, which have been developed into all-purpose super-fast, super-lethal security forces. The drones are like a three-dimensional Pac-Man and they destroy any targets in their path.
"Next To Normal" is certainly not your normal musical.
It defies the conventions of traditional Broadway fare in several ways.
"Next to Normal," through May 19, Civic Theatre of Allentown, has very few spoken words of dialogue. The story is advanced through songs 17 in act one and 20 (including five reprises) in act two, for a total of 37 production numbers.
This is about double the number of songs in a typical musical. "Chicago," for example, has 11 songs in act one and seven songs (with no reprises) in act two, for a total of 17 production numbers.