The Haunt Spot

The Haunt Spot

Haunted Attraction Reviews by Joe Rovinsky

2016 Dracula’s Forest
2828 Rock Road, Clarks Summit

Dracula’s Forest has spent 33 years providing a haunted attraction experience that in some aspects has been frozen in time, for better or worse. We have never visited an attraction that has so much potential to be something truly special yet fails to capitalize on its rather obvious strengths. We have enjoyed Dracula’s Forest every season and continue to do so, but so much more can be done to compete in an increasingly aggressive market in which new attractions offer more relevant, detailed and mature attractions at a similar price point.
Dracula’s Forest features two attractions, the vintage Haunted Hayride and additional Walk of Doom. Each attraction, while enjoyable, can be greatly enhanced to address the horror interests of diverse age groups and haunt fans, while justifying a rather steep $25 price for a combo ticket.
The Haunted Hayride is a throwback to the gritty hayrides of year’s past, using unique set pieces and an amazing atmosphere/environment to create a memorable haunted attraction experience. The realistic, custom-built set pieces, some of which have been present over the past several seasons, are not found in many larger scale haunted attractions. The Haunted Hayride effectively hides scare actors who augment the various vintage scenes found throughout the attraction. While the set designs feature unique props and structures unlike any other, there is an overall lack of theming between each scene. Furthermore, the scare actors are generally actors dressed in hooded sweat-shirts and jeans. Actors in random skull masks, while scary for children or teens, fail to reach the potential of the attraction.
Several minor changes and alterations were made to the hayride this year, some which improved the experience while others were perplexing. Midpoint during the hayride, a loud speaker/announcer “welcomes” guests to the attraction. This soundtrack choice was odd as it distracted from the vintage “Haddonfield” memorial hospital scene and generally felt out of place. Furthermore, Dracula’s Forest at one time featured an insane flying chainsaw scene, which has since been abandoned. While these changes hurt the overall experience, we enjoyed the new, more theatrical Michael Myers/Halloween climax which was a step in the right direction regarding theming of each hayride scene.
The Walk of Doom is an outdoor, partially self-guided tour of the creepy woods surrounding the hayride at Dracula’s Forest. The dense foliage and dark atmosphere of the attraction make perfect backdrops for a terrifying experience. While we explored the trail, we again encountered a variety of random scare actors who had little purpose or thought put into their characterization. Being lost in the dense forest of the attraction generates fear, as the environment and surroundings of the haunt are truly frightening.

Final Word
From a nostalgic standpoint, it is easy to appreciate the unique old- school feel to this attraction as many of the vintage set designs and scenes are unlike any other in modern haunted attractions. Minor alterations to this attractions approach, as well as some modernization regarding promotion, presentation and execution of the attraction would go a long way toward providing an unforgettable experience that keeps Dracula’s Forest at the forefront of the haunted attraction industry.

Liquid – Oct. 13, 2016

Liquid – Oct. 13, 2016

Soaking Up the Suds with James Crane

Oktoberfest brew an invention of necessity

Fun fact of the day: Oktoberfest starts in September. It also only happens in Germany. I’m sure you’ve all seen local celebrations that shared the title, but in truth, they are just celebrations of the real celebration that happens in Munich. Oh, and the original celebration had a lot more to do with horses than beer. And, no, the horses weren’t drinking.
Oktoberfest traces back to 1810, when King Ludwig I married Princess Therese of Saxehildburghausen, and they held some horse races to celebrate. It was fun enough that they decided to repeat it the next year and most every year since, barring time off for war and disease. They also started sampling beer and added swings, tree climbing, bowling alleys and other attractions until it was just one hell of a party. Toward the end of the 19th century, they started serving bratwurst and beer in glass mugs. It started to look like the Oktoberfest we know and love.
The beer we refer to as Oktoberfest is actually called Marzen. Marzen — whose name comes from the German for “March,” when brewers traditionally made it — was, like many things, an invention of necessity. Unlike most lagers, Marzen was made to last a bit, as brewing used to be forbidden in the summer.
Brewing in hot weather was risky business. Higher temperatures provide a great environment for nasty organisms to colonize, nothing anyone wants. To avoid that, brewers made Marzen in March and drank it until the cooler temperatures came back. Beer made in September was ready to drink in October, so September was a great time to drink up that stash you hoarded in your cellar.
Marzen and Oktoberfest became tightly linked since the celebration serves Marzen. The beer generally ages in cellars until late summer, with the last of the bottles served during the festival. That aside, I enjoy Marzen just because they are delicious, like drinking a liquid bread. As far as lagers go, they are one of the best. I always grab a few every September to sample before pumpkin beer kicks it all off the shelves.
This week, I had a bottle of Dominion’s Octoberfest to celebrate. The golden orange color had a slight head. It was the perfect shade and smelled of malt more than anything else. There was a bit of caramel and a little bit of floral hops. The lager yeast also comes through in the nose. Nothing was out of the ordinary on this front.
The brew tasted just like it should. It was like drinking a pretzel. The malt was in the forefront, making each swallow delicious and savory. It has a slightly sweet finish with a hint of caramel. It was enough to cut the savory but not enough to be a turn off. While none of this was necessarily surprising, it was quite welcomed.
This beer wasn’t really a variant on the theme, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a solid Marzen that does exactly what it should. The body is light enough to be super drinkable. It is delicious and goes down easy. It’s a great beer to drink before the heavier beers of the holidays come around. Dominion does it just like it should.

Sounds – Oct. 13, 2016

Sounds – Oct. 13, 2016

Leading Ladies

THE GOOD: Five years after the distinctive yet uneven “Headbangers in Ecstasy,” sisters Piper and Skylar Kaplan finally return and shake up their sound for album No. 2.
THE BAD: Their shoegazing side is turned way down on “Autodrama.” Be prepared for a reboot.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Actually, the new album is surprisingly tight, accessible and way more accomplished than anything these girls have ever done before. Tracks like “Peccavi” and “Tell Me” are slick, catchy, synth-heavy pop songs;
the two bridge the gap between vintage indie acts like Book of Love and ultra-modern fare such as
Neon Indian.
OK, the album does lose some momentum across its second half. Tunes like “End of an Era” and the album’s title track feel too ambitious and overreaching. Fortunately, “Autodrama” recovers with the cool, swaying “Want Your Love” just before its conclusion, leaving us already looking forward to the Kaplans’ next move. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another half-decade to hear it.
BUY IT?: Yes.


ec13_sounds_1_web NITE JEWEL — “Liquid Cool”
THE GOOD: California-based singer/songwriter Ramona Gonzalez (stage name Nite Jewel) reclaims her independence with her third proper album.
THE BAD: No real issues, but no really distinct music either. “Liquid Cool” is a good, electronic-based pop record. But there are a LOT of those out there.
THE NITTY GRITTY: After battling over musical control with ex-label Secretly Canadian, Gonzalez is again a free agent. “Liquid Cool” is a return of sorts to her do-it-yourself roots. Yet, she doesn’t completely abandon the slick tendencies of 2012’s “One Second of Love.” The artist simply injects a bit more atmosphere and experimentation into the new stuff.
Gonzalez sounds more at home in these settings too, giving the music an amateurish quality that’s more charming than distracting. Whether it’s the bass-heavy, foreboding strains of opener “Nothing but Scenery” or the ultra-bubbly “Kiss the Screen,” the woman delivers the mysterious yet accessible goods. Now that she’s obtained her freedom, though, perhaps Gonzalez should find a voice all her own.
BUY IT?: Your choice.

“The Bride”
THE GOOD: British singer/songwriter Natasha Khan (stage name Bat for Lashes) tells a story on her fourth.
THE BAD: “The Bride” is a concept album. Therefore, it sometimes falls into the usual trappings of concept albums and/or rock operas. Some of the individual parts lose their momentum or even relevance when taken away from the greater work.
THE NITTY GRITTY: I’ll always be the girl that was denied. “The Bride” tells the story of a woman in love who’s left at the altar after her fiancé is killed in a car crash en route to the ceremony. After the tragedy, our main character goes on the honeymoon alone and then tries to put back together the rest of her life.
Lyrical tales aside, the record is typical Bat for Lashes. We get the usual mix of shoegaze, electronic new wave, post-Goth overtones and modern folk. A heady, hypnotic concoction carried flawlessly by Khan’s soprano, “The Bride” perfectly blends focused narrative and ethereal pop.
BUY IT?: Definitely.

Halloween Attractions

Halloween Attractions

Halloween Attractions

in the 570 and byond

Bates Motel
Open through to Oct. 31
1835 Middletown Road, Glen Mills

Brighton Asylum
Open through Nov. 5
2 Brighton Ave., Passaic, New Jersey

Brokenharts Asylum
Open through Oct. 30
Luzerne County Fairgrounds, Dallas

Circle of Screams
Open through Oct. 31
1911 Scranton–Carbondale Highway
(Business Route 6), Dickson City

Dorney Park
Open through Oct. 29
3830 Dorney Park Road, Allentown

Dracula’s Forest
Open through Oct. 30
2828 Rock Road, Clarks Summit

Elysburg Haunted House
Oct. 8, 14, 15, 21, 22 and 29
Route 487 at the Elysburg Gun Club

Fear Hollow
Open through Oct. 30
1600 Church Road, Mountain Top

Field of Screams
Open through Nov. 11
191 College Ave., Mountville

Gravestone Manor
Open through Oct. 30
1095 Highway 315, Plains Twp.

Halls of Horror
Open through Oct. 29
320 Delaware Ave., Palmerton

Harvey’s Lake Walk of Terror
Open through Oct. 30
Idetown Volunteer Fire Department
Route 415 and Brier Crest Road

Haunted Scarehouse
Open through Oct. 30
105 W. Dewey Ave., Wharton, New Jersey

Hellstead Manor
Open through Oct. 31
Harmony Road, Susquehanna

Horror Hall
Open through Oct. 30
11 E. Poplar St., West Nanticoke

Hotel of Horror
Open through Nov. 5
Cherry Valley Road, Saylorsburg

Kim’s Krypt
Open through Nov. 6
Spring Grove

Pennhurst Haunted Asylum
Open through Oct. 30
Church and Bridge Street, Spring City

Pure Terror Screampark
Open through Oct. 30
299 Museum Village Road, Monroe, New York

Reapers Revenge Haunted Hayride
Open through Nov. 5
460 Green Grove Road, Olyphant

Open through Nov. 5
94 Park Ave., Sinking Spring

Terror Behind the Walls
Open through Nov. 5
Eastern State Penitentiary
2027 Fairmount Ave., Philadelphia
215-236-5111, ext. 15

The Freak and Funhouse
Open through Oct. 29
422 E. White St., Bowmanstown

Valley of Fear
Open through Oct. 30
301 W. Bristol Road, Feasterville-Trevos

Life, Death and Poetry

Life, Death and Poetry

Life, Death and Poetry

Brian Fanelli launches “Waiting for the Dead to Speak”

Brian Fanelli has saved some of his poems just for Scranton.
The poet and city native will read selections from his new book, “Waiting for the Dead To Speak,” at a launch party Friday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. at the Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W. Market St., Scranton.
“There’s poems very specific to this area that I’m saving for this launch party, because I think that this audience will be able to relate to them. … And it’s just going to be fun,” Fanelli said. “We’re going to have a fun time and just allow people to be able to connect to the poems.”
Published by New York Quarterly Books, the book is Fanelli’s second full-length collection. It includes poems about not only Northeast Pennsylvania and his experience growing up in Scranton but also broader issues and recent events, such as economic inequality and the troubles in Ferguson, Missouri.
Fanelli described the poem that gave its name to the collection as “one of the hardest poems I’ve ever written.” It drew on the death of his father, Frank Fanelli, and “some of the anger I felt after he passed away when I was a young guy in college, trying to process that grief and also … these big questions we ask: What is my faith? What do I actually believe in?”
He began crafting the poem while at a workshop in Binghamton, New York. He doesn’t remember what the prompt was, but he knows he cranked out the poem and “that it pushed me in places that maybe I wouldn’t have gone otherwise. I’m grateful I got it out of this workshop.”
“That poem I think is really one of the most confessional, exploratory poems I’ve ever written,” Fanelli said. “It was really difficult to write.”
He looks at his new book as a response to his first full-length collection, which came out in 2013.
“It’s been a span of time, but I wanted to make sure that they fit well together and I wasn’t just throwing something together to have another book out,” he said. “I think I really took my time with this.”
His first book helped Fanelli land readings in New York City, New Jersey and Philadelphia and put him in touch with “the broader literary community in the tri-state area.” He’ll build on that with his new tour, which will take him back to New York and Philadelphia plus Boston, Harrisburg, Reading and Lancaster.
Poetry’s oral tradition traces back to Homer in ancient Greece, Fanelli pointed out, and he believes writers today need to share their work at readings, too.
“I love getting out there and reading in front of people,” he said. “Poems can work one way on the page, but I think they work totally different when spoken aloud.”
He looks forward to showing others “that there is a lot going on in the Scranton area and (that it has) a strong literary community. We really do have a wonderful art community.”
“It’s going to be a busy fall into the winter, but I’m so excited,” Fanelli said. “It’s really great to get out there and connect with other people and represent our area.”
Friday’s launch party also will feature drinks and food, and Fanelli will have copies of his book available for $15. People also can buy it at Library Express in the Marketplace at Steamtown and through online retailers including Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
Fanelli expects that people who attend his readings will learn more about his upbringing, some of his beliefs and a little bit about his past relationships. He said he wanted the launch party “to be a fun, engaging experience.”
“I just hope that they enjoy it, and … most of all I want them to realize that poetry can be fun and can be accessible,” he said.
— caitlin heaney west


What: “Waiting for the Dead To Speak” reading and launch party
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W. Market St., Scranton

Haunt Spot – Reaper’s Revenge 2016

Haunt Spot – Reaper’s Revenge 2016

Haunted attraction reviews by Joe Rovinsky

2016 Reaper’s Revenge Review
460 Green Grove Rd., Olyphant

Reaper’s Revenge is advertised as “America’s Best Haunted Attraction” and we always felt that testament was slightly self-grandiose. After our experience, however, we feel it’s safe to say that Reaper’s Revenge may very well deserve the tag line of being one of the top, if not the very best, haunted attractions in the country. Quite simply, all four attractions at Reapers Revenge have been perfected for the 2016 season, with enhanced special effects, new set designs, meticulous attention to detail and character actors who play their roles perfectly within the context of each unique scene. Every aspect of this attraction has been taken to a new level and the quality of each attraction from a creative and structural design perspective is second to none. Furthermore, the entire attraction has taken on a more aggressive, intense and interactive approach toward scare acting.
Reaper’s Revenge features several attractions, a variety of food options, zombie paintball, a souvenir stand and free photo opportunities.
The Haunted Hayride attraction is the centerpiece of Reaper’s Revenge and features stunning set designs, special effects and an impressive soundtrack that transforms the entire sixty acres of dark trails into a haunted spectacle.
Pitch Black is a walkthrough indoor attraction that is an all-out attack on the senses as guests try to escape a dark maze. Pitch Black is a panic- inducing, terrifying experience in which we have witnessed grown men “quit” prior to exiting the attraction. Scare actors grasp at ankles, hanging chains block the already tight paths and constant loud noise reduces any downtime and keeps the panic level at an all-time high.
Sector 13 is an interactive indoor walkthrough maze set in post-apocalyptic world in which nuclear warfare has created a host of monstrosities, along with demented medical personnel and militant characters. It’s a physically exhausting, mature, relentless attraction that continues to find new ways to incorporate personal interactive experiences that allow guests to experience a new show every time they visit.

The Final Word
Reaper’s Revenge was absolutely breathtaking. The structural design of each attraction allows the phenomenal talents of the scare actors to shine under the guidance of a dedicated ownership, management and design team. A commitment to excellence across the board is clearly defined by the quality of this year’s show, and we cannot stress enough that this may very well be “America’s Best Haunted Attraction.”

Screens – Oct. 6, 2016

Screens – Oct. 6, 2016

Opening This Week

“Birth of a Nation”
Nate Parker, Armie Hammer
In this R-rated biopic, Nat Turner (Parker), a literate slave and preacher in the Antebellum South, orchestrates a violent uprising. The Plus: The lightning rod. Following a year in which Black Lives Matter dominated the headlines and the film industry was found to have a ridiculous amount of racial and ethnic inequality — a year in which H’wood’s biggest awards event earned the Twitter hashtag and social media blurb “Oscars So White’ — “Birth of a Nation” lit up the festival circuit. Thankfully NOT a remake of the 1915 silent classic but rather a nod to that film’s controversial and racist overtones, writer-producer-director-star Nate Parker’s take on the Nat Turner slave rebellion won both the audience award and grand jury prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, and it struck comparisons to “12 Years a Slave,” which won the Oscar for best picture in 2014. Here, Parker (“The Great Debaters,” “Beyond the Lights”) makes his feature directorial debut with a cast that includes Hammer (“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”), Mark Boone Junior (FX’s “Sons of Anarchy”), Dwight Henry (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), Gabrielle Union (“Top Five”), Penelope Ann Miller (“The Artist”) and Jackie Earle Haley (AMC’s “Preacher”). The Minus: The lightning rod. For all of his film’s accolades, Parker’s private life has been in the press as of late. A 1999 rape charge, and the 2001 trial in which the performer was acquitted, have recently been resurrected, causing the critically lauded film to suffer by proxy. An Aug. 26 screening at the AFI was canceled and distributer Fox Searchlight is reportedly now re-assessing the production’s Oct. 7 rollout. The film did, however, get a standing ovation after a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival last month.


“The Girl on the Train”
Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson
In this R-rated mystery-thriller based on the bestselling novel of the same name, lonely, alcoholic divorcee Rachel Watson (Blunt) takes the train to and from an imaginary workplace every day, making up stories in her head about the people who live in the houses surrounding the one she shared with her ex-husband and his new wife as she goes. She wakes up hungover one day with foggy recollections of something having happened to one of these passersby (Ferguson)…or is it all in her mind? The Plus: The material. In 2015, Paula Hawkins’s book debuted and then stayed atop the New York Times bestseller list for 13 weeks, eventually going on to sell more than 11 million copies, according to BBC News. For the adaptation by Erin Cressida Wilson (“Secretary”), Tate Taylor, who knows a thing or two about successfully bringing bestsellers to screen having shepherded “The Help,” directs a cast that includes Blunt (“The Hunstman: Winter’s War”), Ferguson (“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”), Haley Bennett (“Hardcore Henry”), Justin Theroux (HBO’s “The Leftovers”), Luke Evans (“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”), Edgar Ramirez (“Hands of Stone”), Allison Janney (CBS’s “Mom”), Lisa Kudrow (“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”) and Laura Prepon (Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black”). The Minus: The difficulty. “The Girl on the Train” involves unreliable narration from three different points of view and 326 pages of psychological mind games. Boiling this down into a two-hour film poses problems, but here’s hoping that audiences find another “Gone Girl” on their hands.

On the Fringe

On the Fringe

Alternative performance artists require unique platforms to express their messages.

Scranton Fringe Festival returns for its second year Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 2 to Oct. 2, to fulfill these needs at various venues throughout the Scranton area.
Admission to performances costs $10 each, with tickets available at venues or online at Festival buttons are $5 and allow for $7 admission at events.
The weekend kicks off with a free preview party on Thursday, Sept. 29, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave. The weekend concludes Sunday, Oct. 2, at 8 p.m. with a wrap party at AFA Gallery, 514 Lackawanna Ave.
Festival co-founders Conor O’Brien, who acts as executive director, and Elizabeth Bohan, who serves as managing director, said about 3,000 people attended last year’s festival.
Fringe festivals date back to 1947 in Edinburgh, Scotland, and feature diverse sets of shows, such as comedies, musicals, dance, short stories, visual exhibits and morcover1_webe.
O’Brien formerly participated in several fringes throughout the country as an actor and writer. He and Bohan decided Scranton should participate to bring artists and the community together.

Guests can expect to see more than 50 acts this year, ranging from improv comedy to Shakespeare interpretations and many more. The full schedule can be found on the festival’s website.
“The festival represents performers from nine different U.S. states,” O’Brien said. “We’re very proud to be hosting national friends and artists.”
He added that Scranton Fringe also features the talent of artists in the local community, and that while the directors provide the platform, it is really the artists who promote themselves and their talent.
For Cody Clark, Scranton Fringe Festival provides a valuable opportunity.

The recent University of Louisville graduate and Kentucky native is a full-time magician and autism self-advocate. Clark hopes to inspire audiences with his show “Cody Clark: A Different Way of Thinking.”
Clark enjoys the thrill of performances and likes fringe festivals in particular, because he meets all different kinds of people. He aims to influence audiences through his love of magic and by incorporating living with autism in his shows.
“I hope to share that, for me, autism is simply a different way of thinking,” Clark said. “It’s nothing for you to be scared of. Through my love of magic, I’ve learned to embrace who I am.”
Clark’s performance is slated for Saturday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m. at Scranton Cultural Center. He’ll also perform “Conductor Cody,” a children’s magic character based on railroading, earlier that afternoon at 3 p.m. at Lackawanna County Children’s Library, 520 Vine St.
Scranton Fringe offers an eclectic mix of talent and ideas that appeal to diverse patrons from all walks of life, organizers said.
“I hope that people take away the fact that Scranton is full of passionate, dedicated people who are interested in art,” Bohan said.
— emma silva


If you go
What: Scranton Fringe Festival
When: Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 29 to Oct. 2; times vary
Details: Tickets for each performance cost $10 and are available at the door or online at Festival buttons are $5 and give wearers $7 admission to each show. For buttons, visit Fringe headquarters at 222 Wyoming Ave. For a complete schedule, visit the festival’s website.


Screens: Sept. 29, 2016

Screens: Sept. 29, 2016

Opening this week

“Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children”
Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson
In this PG-13-rated fantasy based on the novel by Ransom Riggs, a boy’s (Asa Butterfield) attempt to solve a mystery that spans different worlds and times leads him to Miss Peregrine’s (Green) Home for Peculiar Children, where the residents have special powers. The Plus: The players. Director Tim Burton’s signature dark and quirky style should lend itself quite well to the oft-kilter, young-adult fiction of Riggs, who already has two more books out in this New York Times bestseller series: “Hollow City” and “Library of Souls.” Here, working from a screenplay by Jane Goldman (“Kingsmen: The Secret Service”), Burton directs Green (Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful”), Jackson (“The Legend of Tarzan”), Butterfield (“Ender’s Game”), Allison Janney (CBS’s “Mom”), Chris O’Dowd (“St. Vincent”), Judi Dench (“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”), Rupert Everett (“Stardust”) and Terence Stamp (“The Adjustment Bureau”). The Minus: The odds. Burton has never made an out-and-out bad film. With every few notches on his CV, however, there comes a project that largely divides critics and audiences (“Mars Attacks!,” “Planet of the Apes” and “Dark Shadows”).

“Deepwater Horizon”
Mark Wahlberg, Dylan O’Brien
In this PG-13-rated fact-based thriller, the mettle of a team of oil drillers gets put to the test during the April 2010 explosion on the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, which created the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The Plus: The story. Last year, “Spotlight,” a drama dealing with The Boston Globe’s unraveling of the Roman Catholic Church cover-up of sexual abuse cases, took home top honors at the Academy Awards, among countless others. Also boasting a timely true story and cast full of stars, “Deepwater Horizon” hopes for similar success. Here, working from a screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan (“World War Z”), Peter Berg (“Hancock”) directs Wahlberg (“Ted 2”), O’Brien (“The Scorch Trials”), Kate Hudson (“Mother’s Day”), Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin”), Ethan Suplee (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) and John Malkovich (“Zoolander 2”). The Minus: The odds. “Friday Night Lights” remains Berg’s best-reviewed film. Prolific (“Patriots Day,” his film about the Boston Marathon bombings, bows in December) but often met with mixed reactions, his filmography runs the gamut from decent (“Very Bad Things,” “The Kingdom”) to just plain awful (“Battleship”). His last release, “Lone Survivor,” another true story starring Wahlberg, unfortunately skewed toward the latter of these two poles.

Zach Galifianakis,
Kristen Wiig
In this PG-13-rated comedy, a night guard (Galifianakis) at an armored car company in the South, tries to pull off one of the biggest bank heists in American history. The Plus: The genre. Based on the true story about a $17 million robbery of a Loomis Fargo armored car in Charlotte, North Carolina, “Masterminds” has assembled an A-team of comedy. Here, Jared Hess (“Napoleon Dynamite”) directs Galifianakis (“Birdman”), Wiig (“Sausage Party”), Kate McKinnon (the forthcoming “Office Christmas Party”), Jason Sudekis (“Mother’s Day”), Owen Wilson (“Zoolander 2”) and Leslie Jones (“Ghostbusters”). The Minus: The odds. Notice that most of the successful comedies in theaters lately have been R-rated (“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” “Bad Moms,” “Sausage Party”). Also, since releasing pop cultural sensation “Napoleon Dynamite,” Hess has failed to find follow-up success (“Nacho Libre,” “Gentleman Broncos”). Based on the lackluster display of said comedy in the trailers, “Masterminds” looks to make this an unfortunate three-peat for the director.


Now Playing

“The Magnificent Seven”
Denzel Washington, Chis Pratt
*** — The Mild Bunch
Despite falling far short of the classic status long bestowed on the 1960 original, this oftentimes entertaining remake might not be “Magnificent,” but the cast and slick direction alone just about earn it a “Seven” out of 10. In this PG-13-rated remake, seven gunmen in the Old West (Washington, Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, et al) gradually come together to help a poor village against savage thieves. Granted, this production never intended to take on the Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Eli Wallach, Brad Dexter and James Coburn western re-do of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” — just draw inspiration from it … or one would hope. The original garnered an iconic status so vaunted that H’Wood (an institution long known for revering the sanctity of film’s Golden Age by greedily pilfering from it) has been trying to remake it for years. In playing with matches in and around such a legacy, “The Magnificent Seven” 2.0 could’ve been an outright disaster (reportedly in the planning stages since 2012, one false start of this iteration was once rumored to star Tom Cruise, Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman), but the product that results more than breaks even, albeit barely. Even beyond revisiting the script of the original’s (which many younger filmgoers haven’t seen), this remake nonetheless feels redundant and predictable. Sure, with mixed-race players at the forefront, “Seven” brings a welcome revisionist feel to this very modern western, but the color-by-numbers plot pointing up the importance of disparate people working together despite their differences and painting a broad portrait of an industrial captain-as-industry as a mustache-twirling villain comes across as clichéd when it should scream of topicality. Led by the dynamic twosome of Washington and Pratt, however, “The Magnificent Seven” works on one critical level: likeability. Dangerous but charismatic in their own right, each character (admittedly some more than others) gets the benefit of strong casting to color in the edginess of their respective desperado. It works, offering up a semi-lovable rogue gallery that earns the sympathies of the audience even when some of their characters seem to be written as caricatures. His skills as an action director honed well on “Training Day,” “Olympus Has Fallen” and “The Equalizer,” Antoine Fuqua captures the shoot-‘em-up fireworks with enough visual flair to ratchet up the intensity without stealing thunder from his star-studded cast.

“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years”
Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr
***1/2 — The Fab Four-Reeler
This documentary from Ron Howard (“In the Heart of the Sea”) features a compilation of footage featuring music, interviews and stories chronicling the Beatles’ 250 concerts from 1963 to 1966. If you’re a true Beatles fan, you’ve probably already unearthed every conceivable nugget of information regarding music history’s greatest band of all time. That said, if you’re a true Beatles fan, you’ll show up to watch the same archival footage and canned new interviews not to discover new information but out of pure devotedness. What “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years” offers both devotees and curious passersby alike is a relatively short, sweet and slickly produced summation of the group’s live performances before they became fed up with touring incessantly during the height and inevitable decline of Beatlemania. Like the best of his CV (“Apollo 13,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Rush”), Howard’s first feature-length documentary evinces a reverence for history while, at the same time, buffing the content into a sheen that shines like the best gosh-darn floor wax. Unless you didn’t know that John Lennon provoked a firestorm of hate toward the band by comparing them to Jesus, there’s little controversy that pops up here — just a good-looking and safe music history lesson (this will prove much more difficult a feat if Howard mounts a like-minded chronicle of the sometimes tumultuous studio years). McCartney, Starr and George Martin (their Abbey Road sound engineer) pop up in new interviews while Lennon and George Harrison appear in archival footage.

Liquid: Sept. 29, 2016

Liquid: Sept. 29, 2016

Soaking Up the Suds with James Crane

Well, it happened. It is officially autumn.
The sun is going to go down a little earlier, the leaves are going to change, and your sleeves are going to start getting longer. Obviously, your beer is going to start changing too. As we creep toward the dark days of winter, they are going to follow suit, becoming bigger, bolder, thicker and also darker. Beer will take on all the qualities of a comfort food.
It used to be that I would wait all year for autumn beers. Summer beers were just a placeholder, something to drink while I waited for Oktoberfest and the onslaught of pumpkin brews. This year really seemed to change that for me, however. I found an appreciation for certain styles, many of which came from Germany or Belgium. Wheat beers and saisons paired perfectly with the hot days of summer without being bland and boring.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that while I’m excited for seasonal autumn brews, I’m not quite ready to bid my summer beers goodbye. If only there was some sort of transitional brew. Maybe something festive and malty, but with an herbal profile one might find in the heartier fare of the upcoming months. If only some brewery did something crazy, like took a saison and threw a bay leaf in it or something.
Wait, what is that? Dogfish Head did just that? Well, golly, Dogfish Head. You sure are swell.
Of course, it is more than just beer with a bay leaf floating in it. The brewery called it Biere De Provence Saison, a farmhouse beer brewed with lavender, marjoram and bay leaves. Obviously inspired by the classical spice blend of southeast France, this beer promised “a floral nose and a unique, dry spice.” This sounds like it could be a recipe for disaster concocted by an overly enthusiastic brewer. Dogfish Head’s name is attached to this one, however. It generally doesn’t go off half-cocked.
The beer poured a beautiful shade of gold with a slight head to it. The herb presence was certainly noticeable in the scent. This went along with the standard saison spicy yeast notes. It was that sort of clove and black pepper sensation. The lavender was particularly noticeable and oddly accentuated the smell of the malt.
I’m not even exactly sure how to describe the taste. It was so well-balanced that picking out individual flavors proved a bit difficult. Sure, there were the herbs, but each herbal sensation faded into the next one to where it was hard to tell where one began and another ended. There was malt up front and yeasty, dry saison spice at the end, but the middle was such a great mix. There was certainly marjoram, lavender and bay leaf, but they presented in such a non-obtrusive way that they were no more the focus than the traditional flavors of the beer.
This beer was neat. It was tasty, interesting and smooth. Best of all, it was charmingly subtle in its uniqueness. I’ve never had a saison like this before. The herbs and its 8.3 percent ABV make it a quite fitting for early autumn, while its classic saison qualities were a great throwback to the recently passed summer months. This is a great brew to dive into.