Earth Day in The 570

Earth Day in The 570

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful volunteers have removed 105,568,375 pounds of trash from the commonwealth’s landscape. Approximately 150,000 volunteers participate annually, most in association with the Great American Cleanup, with events scheduled this year from March 1 through May 31. Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful offers cleanup resources including educational literature, safety videos, illegal dump surveys and technical assistance to those who want to help. Illegally dumped trash can cost up to $1,000 per ton to clean up.

Call (877) 772-3673 or visit for more information on the following cleanup events already scheduled in the region or to register your own.

Upcoming cleanups include the Coal Street Playground in Glen Lyon on April 19, multiple events in Carbondale from April 23 to 24 and Nay Aug Park on April 25. Events are scheduled on Saturday, April 26 in Old Forge, the City of Wilkes-Barre, Shickshinny, the Avondale Mine Disaster Site and Moon Lake in Hunlock Township, Nicholson Borough, Starucca, Tobyhanna State Park and the North Branch of the Susquehanna River. South Scranton’s Elm Street district and the Lower Green Ridge neighborhood of Scranton, Jefferson Township, Clifford Township, D & H Rail Trail in Forest City and Lee Park in Hanover Township will all see efforts on May 3.

The Lackawanna River Corridor Association holds its annual pre-RiverFest clean up on May 15. The “River Clearing Run” needs volunteers with canoes/kayaks to paddle the Lackawanna River from points upstream down to Olive Street in Scranton to remove debris, take note of downed trees (chain saw), navigation problems, or other hindrances for future paddlers. The River Cleanup entails prepping Sweeney’s Beach, clearing both river banks and river of litter and debris, prepping the Canoe-A-Thon landing area and removing litter from the RiverFest site.

American Masters: A Fierce Green Fire explores 50 years of environmental grassroots and global activism and premieres nationwide on Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22 on PBS at 9 p.m. “Connecting all the major aspects of environmentalism, the documentary chronicles the largest movement of the 20th century, and one of the keys to the 21st. From halting dams in the Grand Canyon to battling 20,000 tons of toxic waste at Love Canal; from Greenpeace saving the whales to Chico Mendes and the rubber tappers saving the Amazon; from climate change to the promise of transforming our civilization, the film tells vivid stories about people fighting and succeeding — against enormous odds.” It is narrated by Robert Redford, Ashley Judd, Van Jones, Isabel Allende and Meryl Streep, and is written and directed by Academy Award-nominee Mark Kitchell (pictured).

American Masters: A Fierce Green Fire explores 50 years of environmental grassroots and global activism and premieres nationwide on Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22 on PBS at 9 p.m.
“Connecting all the major aspects of environmentalism, the documentary chronicles the largest movement of the 20th century, and one of the keys to the 21st. From halting dams in the Grand Canyon to battling 20,000 tons of toxic waste at Love Canal; from Greenpeace saving the whales to Chico Mendes and the rubber tappers saving the Amazon; from climate change to the promise of transforming our civilization, the film tells vivid stories about people fighting and succeeding — against enormous odds.” It is narrated by Robert Redford, Ashley Judd, Van Jones, Isabel Allende and Meryl Streep, and is written and directed by Academy Award-nominee Mark Kitchell (pictured).

Additional Earth Day Events
Revived, April 22- May 5, Thursdays-Saturdays, noon-6 p.m. Group exhibition of artworks created from recycled and repurposed materials. The Vintage Theater, Scranton.

River Road Cleanup, April 26, 9-11:30 a.m. Visit the website to download a volunteer release prior to arriving for this 11th annual litter pick-up along River Road. The first 50 to register receive a T-shirt. All will receive safety gloves and vests. Also enjoy a continental breakfast at registration and a complimentary appreciation lunch at The Gem and Keystone brewpub. Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, Shawnee-On-Delaware. (570) 424-4050.

Hiking the Endless Mountains, April 22, 7 p.m. A multimedia presentation by Jeff Mitchell will be offered in celebration of Earth Day. Mitchell is the author of books including “Hiking the Endless Mountains,” “Backpacking Pennsylvania,” “Hiking the Allegheny National Forest” and “Paddling Pennsylvania.” Hibbard Student Center, LaPlume. (570) 945-8000.

Earth Day Fair, April 22, 11 a.m. Find interactive games, presentations and information related to the environment and sustainable practices on the patio. Patrick and Margaret DeNaples Center, Scranton. (570) 941-7520 or

Play Again: Earth Day movie screening, April 22, 6:30 p.m. The Moose Exchange and Bloomsburg University’s Green Campus Initiative invite the community to play outside at 6:30 before watching Play Again at 7 p.m. “One generation from now most people in the U.S. will have spent more time in the virtual world than in nature; new media technologies have improved our lives in countless ways; information now appears with a click; overseas friends are part of our daily lives; and even grandma loves Wii. But what are we missing when we are behind screens?” the event poses. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Bloomsburg. (570) 314-2596 or

Water Our Most Precious Resource, April 22, 7:30 p.m. Lecture and panel discussion offered as part of The University of Scranton’s Earth Week 2014 and in conjunction with the Spring Sustainability Symposium. In the McIlhenny Ballroom on the fourth floor. Patrick and Margaret DeNaples Center, Scranton. Free. (570) 941-7400 or

Reptile & Amphibian Survey Program, April 23, 6-8:30 p.m. With Biologist John Jose of the PARS Project. Learn about local animals, how to find and identify them and how to make a contribution to their conservation. Registration recommended. Lackawanna College Environmental Institute, Covington Township. $5. (570) 842-1506.

Everybody into the Vernal Pool, April 24, 6-9 p.m. John Jose from Ottercreek Environmental Education Services leads an evening search for frogs and salamanders. Learn how to safely handle the animals, tips on how to identify them and take photographs. Registration requested. Lackawanna State Park, Dalton. (570) 945-3239 or

Spring Into Action Park Cleanup, April 26, 9 a.m.-noon. Registration required. Nescopeck State Park, Drums. Free. (570) 403-2006.

Earth Day Clean Up, April 26, 10 a.m.-noon. Volunteers are needed for shrub, flower and tree planting and for general park clean up. Meet at the park office. Gloves and bags will be provided. Frances Slocum State Park, Wyoming. (570) 696-9105 or

Earth Week Geocache CITO (Cache In Trash Out), April 26, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. This park clean up is organized in honor of Earth Week and in conjunction with The Great American Clean Up of PA. Registration requested. Bags, gloves and safety vests will be provided. Lackawanna State Park, Dalton. (570) 945-3239 or

Earth Day Open House, April 26, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Bring your old and unwanted electronics for eco-friendly recycling. Also enjoy samples of organic, green and fair trade foods and listen to live music by Doreen Coleman from 1 to 3 p.m. Everything Natural, Clarks Summit. (570) 586-9684.

Guided Bird Walk, April 19, 8 a.m. Conservation volunteer Dave Kruel will lead a guided bird walk. Wear comfortable shoes and bring binoculars. Registration required. Nescopeck State Park, Drums. Free. (570) 403-2006.

Environmental Awareness 5 K Fun Run / Walk, April 26, 11 a.m. Registration begins at 10 a.m. The University of Scranton presents this race along the Lackawanna River as part of its Earth Week 2014 series of events. Lackawanna Heritage Trail, Scranton. Free.

Jim Thorpe Earth Day Festival, April 26, 10 a.m. Enjoy music and art in Josiah White Park, the Dimmick Memorial Library and the Mauch Chunk Opera House, a Lehigh River Cleanup, handmade and recycled crafts, hooping workshop, games, food and more at this event providing green information and promoting environmental awareness. Historic Jim Thorpe, Jim Thorpe. (570) 325-5810 or

House & Garden Show, April 26, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. April 27, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Featuring professional home and garden vendors, gift items, children’s gardening workshop, fly fishing demonstrations and lessons, and a gourmet luncheon by Camelot serving soup, quiche, sandwiches, and salad. Waverly Community House, Waverly. (570) 586-8191.
Pike-Wayne Earth Day Festival 2014, April 26, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. This free, family-event focuses on celebrating natural resources and the people working to preserve, conserve and protect them. PPL Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center, Hawley.

Hawley Earth Fest, April 25-27. Three days of events in the Lake Region featuring discounts and music at participating restaurants in addition to cultural and educational programs.

Friday, April 25
2 to 5 p.m. – Hawley Farmer’s Market Opens outside the Hawley Library. Vendors include a petting zoo, prepared foods, wild edibles instruction and a bow and arrow demonstration, Northern Lights Natural Foods prepackaged herbal tea blends for wellness and more.
6 to 9:30 p.m. – Not All Who Wander Are Lost: Photographs by Geoffrey Partridge at Roots Yoga Studio
Saturday, April 26
10 to 11 a.m. – Species Parade in Bingham Park. Register at the Senior Center at 9 a.m.
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Pike-Wayne Earth Day Festival at PPL
11 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Book readings, lectures, games and more at the Hawley Library.
1 to 5 p.m. – Yoga for Kids at Roots Yoga Studio. Kids will learn to connect to the natural world through their own bodies and breathe. Feel what it is like to be a tree while in tree pose, feel the power of a lions roar, blossom like a flower. Stop by with the kids for 5 minutes or 1 hour. Free. Parents are welcome to stay and participate.
2 to 6 p.m. – Block Party at The Belevedere Hotel
Sunday, April 27
8 to 9 a.m. – Nature Walk with Nathaniel Whitmore. Nathaniel teaches about botany, mycology, medical herbalism, plant and mushroom identification, foraging, and preparation of medicinal herbs. Meet by skateboard park in Bingham Park. Arrive 10 minutes early.
10 am – Tour De Towpath Bike Tour
10 am – Yoga in the Park with Roots Yoga with instructor Maggie Lehrian. Meet at the gazebo in Bingham Park. This class serves as an alternative to the usual 10 a.m. class held at Roots Yoga studio, weather permitting.
1 to 3 p.m. – Kids Yoga (ages 3-6) Earth Day Open House
3 to 5 p.m. – Kids Yoga (ages 7-10) Earth Day Open House. Kids will learn to connect to the natural world through their own bodies and breathe. Feel what it is like to be a tree while in tree pose, feel the power of a lions roar, blossom like a flower. Stop by with the kids for 5 minutes or 1 hour – these are free, open events! Parents are welcome to stay and participate.
3 to 4 p.m. – Green Cleaning: Northern Light Natural Foods (2591 Route 6 )presents a beginner’s guide to making your own non-toxic household cleaners with a handful of basic ingredients. Class will include information on some of the most common toxins found in conventional cleaning products, as well as a dozen or so ‘recipes’ for all areas of the house. (570) 226-5858.


The Presbypop Sextet features Al Hamme on saxophones, Michael Carbone on saxophones, Jeff Stockham on trumpet and French horn, Ron Vincent on drums, Joe Cole on bass, and pianist Bill Carter.

The Presbypop Sextet features Al Hamme on saxophones, Michael Carbone on saxophones, Jeff Stockham on trumpet and French horn, Ron Vincent on drums, Joe Cole on bass, and pianist Bill Carter.

Eco Jazz Concert, April 27, 4 p.m. The Presbybob Jazz Sextet will perform a program of music in honor of Earth Day and the return of spring. A brand-new suite inspired by the Canadian Rockies titled “Beyond Banff” will be featured. First Presbyterian Church of Clarks Summit, Clarks Summit. (570) 586-6306 or

Record Store Day 2014

Record Store Day 2014

Spin the Black Circle
Record Store Day 2014 is Here

Compact discs? MP3s? Satellite radio? Online streaming? The sound doesn’t even come close to comparing to the sultry warm feel of vinyl. Throughout our busy lives, most of us are guilty of listening to our music through the most convenient ways possible — taking the time to put the needle on the record to kick back and enjoy the aural ride is now far from the norm.
Record Store Day is Saturday, April 19, which means you’ll have the opportunity to purchase exclusive items from a new selection of rare edition releases, including many LPs, EPs, CDs and 7-inch vinyl discs. Even cooler, you’ll be able to visit your local independent music store and begin the adventurous task of searching through record upon record in search of hidden gems and rare releases.
PrintThe original idea for Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 as a celebration of the unique culture surrounding more than 700 independently-owned record stores in the United States, as well as in international shops. Celebrated on the third Saturday of every April, it’s a day when all independently-owned record stores unite with artists to celebrate music. Special vinyl, CD releases and various promotional products are exclusively released and hundreds of artists in the United States and in various countries across the globe make special appearances and performances.
It’s all about supporting the small record stores within the community, that are in turn offering their customers some seriously rare releases. These stores are all independent, have absolute say in what they stock and are not owned by corporations.
According to, a participating store is defined as “a stand-alone brick-and-mortar retailer whose main primary business focuses on a physical store location, whose product line consists of at least 50 percent music retail, whose company is not publicly traded and whose ownership is at least 70 percent located in the state of operation.”
The following local stores will celebrate Record Store Day 2014:

  • Joe Nardone’s Gallery of Sound (Mundy St., Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton/Dickson City,) opens at 9 a.m. and will have free giveaways and exclusive limited edition vinyl and CDs. There will be live music at the 186 Mundy St. location featuring various vinyl DJs throughout the day and appearances by Taking Back Sunday and The Used (meet-and-greet), Crobot (unplugged), Leroy Justice, Gentleman East, Abstract People’s and Three Imaginary Boys.
  • Embassy Vinyl (352 Adams Ave., Scranton) will have Record Store Day exclusive titles available,  plus they will be giving away two Stanton turntables and a bunch of other freebies. The day will also feature live performances by Cody Searl, Give Us Your Bones, Eye On Attraction and others.
  • Musical Energi (59 North Main St., Wilkes-Barre) opens at 9 a.m. and will offer sales, free promotional giveaways including bags, posters, pins and live performances by Dub Savage, Buckknife, Mock Sun and Kali Ma & the Garland of Arms, who will have their new record, Holy Drone, available for pre-sale. There’s also a gift-card giveaway and raffles. The store will also offer a large selection of record players for sale.
  • Main Street Jukebox (606 Main St., Stroudsburg) will have limited edition releases and live music by I.D.C., Brandon Flatley, P.O.W.W.O.W, Lenny Kaye, Blae Fleming of Time Up/Mars Volta, Disposable, Lorg and Edelweiss.
  • Wayne’s World Music (Dallas) and Wayne’s World of Used CD’s & More (Pittston) are also celebrating Record Store Day with live performances to be announced.

Please contact the individual stores for specific information regarding special releases for Record Store Day as each store will be offering a different selection of limited edition material. For a complete detailed list of available releases, visit
— tom graham

The Countdown to #TheBreakdown: Floodwood

The Countdown to #TheBreakdown: Floodwood

The Countdown to #TheBreakdown
A closer look at acts coming to Cabinet’s Susquehanna Breakdown Music Festival


The local-turned-national bluegrass outfit Cabinet is hosting the Susquehanna Breakdown Music Festival on Saturday, May 10 at The Pavilion at Montage Mountain. Other performers include Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, Marco Benevento, Floodwood, Terrapin Flyer featuring Melvin Seals and Mark Karan and many more. Here is a closer look at one of the many performing acts playing at #TheBreakdown.

Band Name: Floodwood
Band members and instruments: Al Schnier (acoustic guitar), Vinnie Amico (drums), Jason Barady (mandolin), Nick Piccininni (banjo/fiddle) and Zachary Fleitz (acoustic and electric basses).
Genre: Progressive String Music
Year started: 2012
Releases: This is Life (studio 2013) and This is Live (live 2014)
Hometown: Utica, N.Y.
Influences: Sam Bush, Del McCoury, Bela Fleck, Old and In the Way and Grateful Dead
How would you describe your sound? Barn burnin’ bluegrass with a  modern twist.
What can audiences expect to see at a live show?
Audiences can expect a performance that features an even mix of songwriting, vocal harmonies, instrumental arraignments and spotlighted solos. Floodwood’s live show keeps everyone involved, especially the audience, from start to finish.
What are you looking forward to most about The Susquehanna Breakdown?
The venue itself is an attraction for artists and fans. We can’t wait to work with Cabinet again and perform on the stage that we shared with all the great artists at the Peach Festival last summer.
What are your plans for the rest of 2014?
We want to play as many shows as we can and possibly take another trip out to Colorado. We have a few more festivals on the calendar that we can’t wait to play!
For fans of: moe., Phish, Grateful Dead,


The Susquehanna Breakdown Festival takes place Saturday, May 10, at the Pavilion at Montage Mountain. Guests can arrive Friday, May 9, at 5 p.m. to camp on Montage Mountain and attend a performance by Cabinet and others that evening. Advance tickets are $20 for general admission, $55 for VIP and $20 for camping. Tickets on the day of the festival increase to $25 for general admission, $60 for and $25 for camping. They are available at the box office and Ticketmaster outlets, over the phone at (800) 745-3000 and online at



The Bash is Back

The Bash is Back

The Bash is Back
Celebrate rock 107’s 34th birthday with Joan Jett and the blackhearts

Put 34 candles on the cake and blow the suckers out! Joan Jett and the Blackhearts are headlining the 34th annual Rock 107 Birthday Bash on Thursday, April 17 at The Woodlands Inn, 1073 Hwy. 315 Wilkes-Barre. The night features performances by local supporting acts Sucker, Flaxy Morgan, Infinity and Omnitial; a giant birthday cake; door prizes and refreshments. Doors for the show open at 7 p.m. To score tickets for the party, visit for more information.
EC10ROCK107_8_WEBJett rose to fame as a member of the all-female rock group The Runaways (at age 15) before breaking out as a solo star with hits like “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Bad Reputation,” “Crimson and Clover” and “I Hate Myself For Loving You.” As the leader of the hard-rocking Blackhearts, she’s had eight platinum and gold albums and nine Top 40 singles. Jett has acted in movies and television, including 1987’s Light Of Day (co-starring Michael J. Fox) and in a Tony-nominated Broadway musical, The Rocky Horror Show. As a producer, she has overseen albums by Bikini Kill, Circus Lupus and the Germs. A version of “I Hate Myself for Loving You” has been NBC’s Sunday Night Football theme for several seasons and she recently saw her story told in The Runaways, the feature film starring Kristen Stewart as Jett (Jett also served as an executive producer of the project).
Unvarnished, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts latest release, features several collaborators such as Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!) and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana) who co-wrote the single “Any Weather.”
“I’ve had a blessed career,” Jett said in a recent statement. “I consider myself so lucky to have been able to do things my own way.” — tom graham


Welcome to 1980

Rock 107 launches Feb. 20, 1980.
The first song played was “Spirit of the Radio” by Rush.
The 1980 United States Census begins. There are 226,545,805 United States residents
Iron Maiden’s debut self-titled album Iron Maiden is released.
The Pennsylvania Lottery is rigged by six men including the host of the live TV drawing, Nick Perry.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is released.
Pac-Man (the best-selling arcade game of all time) is released in Japan.
The first 24-hour news channel Cable News Network (CNN) is launched.
Comedian Richard Pryor is badly burned trying to freebase cocaine.
Former California governor and actor Ronald Reagan is nominated for U.S. president.
The album Back in Black is released by the Australian band AC/DC.
The Police release their third studio album, Zenyattà Mondatta.
World Series: The Philadelphia Phillies beat the Kansas City Royals 4–2 in game 6.
A record number of viewers tune into the soap opera Dallas to learn who shot lead character J. R. Ewing.
Paul McCartney is arrested in Tokyo for possession of a half-pound of marijuana. The remaining part of Wings’ tour has to be canceled and he is ejected from the country by Japanese authorities.
Pink Floyd’s The Wall tour opens at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.
A member of the New Jersey state assembly introduces a resolution to make Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” the official state song.
Black Sabbath release Heaven and Hell, their first album to feature new vocalist Ronnie James Dio.
The Sony Walkman goes on sale in the United States.
KISS plays its first show with new drummer Eric Carr at the New York Palladium.
The Eagles end their tour with a show in Long Beach, Calif. They would not play together again until 1994.
Fans in Toronto stage a riot after Alice Cooper cancels because of illness.
The first Monsters of Rock festival is held at Donington Park in England. Rainbow headlines, and Judas Priest, Scorpions, April Wine, Saxon, Riot and Touch also perform.
John Bonham, drummer of Led Zeppelin, is found dead by bandmate John Paul Jones. Led Zeppelin disbands immediately.
Elton John plays a free concert for 400,000 people in New York’s Central Park. He performs the encore in a Donald Duck costume.
Mark David Chapman shoots and kills John Lennon outside his apartment building in New York City. Later, more then 100,000 mourners attend a public vigil for Lennon in Central Park.



Opening this week

Rio 2
Voices of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway
Pixar and Dreamworks aren’t the only game in town when it comes to blockbuster animation. With the gi-normous back-to-back-to-back-to-back success of the Ice Age series, 20th Century Animation found further franchise potential when Rio proved a carnival at the box office. Next up is Epic and Ice Age 5 … after Rio 2, that is. In this G-rated animated musical comedy, Blu (Eisenberg), Jewel (Hathaway) and their three kids get hurtled Rio de Janeiro to the wilds of the Amazon where they go beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel (Jemaine Clement) and meet the most fearsome adversary of all: Jewel’s father (Andy Garcia). The Plus: The franchise. Rio banked $143 million at the domestic box office. Moviegoers will flock to the follow-up — it’s just a question of: How much? Given that a holiday weekend is approaching, it’ll probably bank a lot. Plus, this flick boasts the A-List pipes of Eisenberg (Now You See Me), Hathaway (Les Miserables), Leslie Mann (This is 40), Kristin Chenoweth (Hit and Run), Clement (Men in Black 3), Rodrigo Santoro (The Last Stand), George Lopez (The Smurfs 2), Garcia (City Island), Jamie Foxx (White House Down), Tracy Morgan (NBC’s 30 Rock), Miguel Ferrer (CBS’s NCIS: Los Angeles) and (Date Night). The Minus: Sophomore slump. As Dreamworks recently discovered, for every hit like The Croods there’s a relative disappointment like Turbo waiting in the wings. It all comes down to quality.

Draft Day
Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner
It seems like it was just months ago that this column raved that Kevin Costner was the best part of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and deserved to be given a another shot at leading man status …uh, actually it was just weeks ago. Then came 3 Days to Kill. Be careful what you wish for. In this PG-13-rated sports drama, general manager Sonny Weaver (Costner) has the opportunity to rebuild his team when he sacrifices all to trade for the number one pick (Chadwick Boseman) at the NFL Draft. The Plus: The players. In addition to Costner (Man of Steel), Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters) directs a cast includes Garner (The Dallas Buyers Club), Boseman (42), Joe Mangianello (Sabotage), Sam Elliot (Ghost Rider), Rosanna Arquette (Joe Dirt), Terry Crews (The Expendables 2), Frank Langella (Muppets Most Wanted), Denis Leary (The Amazing Spider-Man), Sean Combs (Get Him to the Greek) and Ellen Bursytn (Lifetime’s Flowers in the Attic) plus appearances by sports figures such as Arian Foster and Deion Sanders. The Minus: The reality. Remember when Reitman was a hot H’Wood commodity? Nope? Well, that’s because the film industry has a short memory when it comes to box office duds (Evolution, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, No Strings Attached). Though Costner certainly deserves a Liam Neeson-style career rejuvenation (Taken, The Grey), 3 Days to Kill shows evidence that he’s not being too choosy script-wise.


Now Playing

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson
***1/2 — American Beauty
A lion in Winter, Spring or any season for that matter, Captain America soldiers on in an impressively smart, sleek and superior sequel that’s more of a superspy thriller than superhero actioner. In this PG-13-rated actioner, Steve Rogers (Evans) struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). The First Avenger proved better than average though not by much. Of course, it held the dubious distinction of setting up a decades-spanning origin tale of a whitebread do-gooder who’s never seen the rock star popularity of fellow Marvel-ous heroes Spider-Man or the X-Men. With so much story and, perhaps, not as much audience interest, director Joe Johnston carved out an impressively rollicking niche in pre-Avengers moviedom. The World War II backstory lain, Winter Soldier tells a much more modern tale that still respects the past by brilliantly playing on Cap’s fish-out-of-water reluctant heroism with tongue firmly in cheek (see: Rogers walking through a Smithsonian exhibit on … well, him). All of this, however, gets delivered in the body of a fast-paced techno thriller with the white knuckle conspiratorial tone of a 70s spy caper. Capping off a star-making series of performances as super soldier Steve Rogers, Chris Evans perfectly provides the pulse behind the action. Blond, blue-eyed and chiseled, he looks the part of a white-hatted lunk but he genuinely shoulders the world as a superman-out-time. Providing whipsmart backup and whiplash moves, a knee-weakingly vampy Scarlet Johansson nearly makes moviegoers think this a double bill despite her supporting status. Without the razor-sharp precision of directors/brothers Anthony and Chris Russo, however, this flick would tinkle like a Spring shower rather than a storm you want to chase right into the eye of Avengers 2.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham
****1/2 – Plaza Sweet
Like a Bottle Rocket off of Rushmore into Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s Royal, Fantastic and — yes — Grand latest takes up residence in your mind’s eye with nary of the limited waterlogged whimsy of The Life Aquatic. In fact, it’s his masterwork … thus far. In this R-rated comedy, Anderson presents the adventures of Gustave H (Fiennes), a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel in a war-torn European nation, and Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. Here, Anderson’s not just pulling the strings on a curriculum, family tree, or scout troop of his own design, the writer/director integrates filmgoers seamlessly into a decades-spanning multi-layered story set in a completely credible fictitious nation. Who DOES that? Well, it’s more of a question of: Who COULD do it? At first glance, with its patchwork of numerous A-List stars and minute details, Grand Budapest Hotel looks as dangerously over-indulgent as the way-too-whimsical Steve Zissou, which failed to tether filmgoers much — if at all — to reality. Anderson’s charming verve, meticulously planned aesthetics, and vintage-sounding wordsmithing work best when he keeps at least one of your feet on the ground even when he’s already stuck your head in the clouds. That’s the beauty of this particular check-in, however. Even the most fantastical moments (and there are many) somehow feel lived-in and rooted in some kind of nostalgic familiarity. As for the myriad of stars, they’re not simply stunt-casted. Rather, every character and performance plays an integral part in Anderson’s madcap mechanics. Fiennes, however, manages to wrap every viewer around his pinky — a high accolade given there’s nothing close to resembling a low point in this talent roster. True, you could gripe that Saoirse Ronan has a hard time hiding her Irish brogue, but that’s just nit-picking apart Anderson’s most adult, maudlin, yet loveliest work yet.

*** — Boat Trippy
Raising a flood of inspiration and ire, Darren Aronofsky’s mystical-meets-Biblical take on Noah engagingly goes from Requiem for a Fever Dream to Man’s Black Swan Song in 2 hours and 20 minutes. In this PG-13-rated adventure, a man (Crowe) suffering visions of an apocalyptic deluge takes measures to protect his family (Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman). Of course, the Holy Book has always danced with mysticism … or vice versa. Look at The Bible with open eyes and it plays stranger than Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or Martin’s Game of Thrones, an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in historical fiction with dragons and magic. So, it makes the sense that the man who made mind-bending but eye-popping hippie dippy phooey The Fountain would forego a straight ahead literal interpretation of a child’s Bible story. Like Cecil B. DeMille on peyote, Darren Aronofsky has an epic vision. It’s a Goldilocks tale — sometimes he offers up aesthetics that are too hot, too cold, but occasionally produces many that are JUST right. It’s a successful failure, earning points for not playing it safe.

Bad Words
Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn
***1/2 – Bee Cool
This reviewer has words for Bad Words and they’re mostly really good. In this R-rated foul-mouthed societal dust-up, a former spelling bee loser (Bateman) sets out to exact revenge by exploiting a loophole and attempting to win as an adult. Oh, the comedy is not without its bell-ringing missteps but nonetheless ends up to be a solid continuation of the H’Wood trend of adults behaving badly—Bad Santa, Bad Teacher, and Bad Grandpa. Littered with laugh-out-loud moments throughout its short running time, the movie succeeds chiefly because of the name above all others. Given that it’s a directorial debut, however, this name — B-A-T-E-M-A-N — deserves more than an honorable mention. True, the flick does cop out by un-Scrooging its curmudgeon, but it’s done with such style and, ahem, character that it’s definitely worth sitting a spell.


Small Screens

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig
***1/2 – Beautiful Dreamer
In this PG-rated fantasy adventure premiering on DVD on Tuesday, a day-dreamer who escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies (Stiller) embarks on a globe-trotting journey more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined. A colorful and rich fever dream that could’ve easily played out like a nightmare on screen, Ben Stiller’s not-so-Secret Life as a director instead colors outside of the H’Wood lines to great affect with his latest. Even Walter’s job in Negative Assets sounds innocuous, but the film presents a vibrant palette and expansive canvas that’s every bit as ambitious as Life of Pi. Finding invention in convention, Stiller expands James Thurber’s whimsical short story about a lovelorn daydreamer into a fantastical feature-length narrative about a forgettable everyman whose life turns unforgettable when his dreams inexorably become realities. Sure, the storyline becomes contrived at times but this rare shot of optimism truly taps into a fun-filled dreamstate.