DVD Review: Rango

'Rango': The Itchy, the Thirsty and the Ugly

"Rango is an all-out Western, and it’s made first and foremost for an audience that’s nostalgic for movies like High Noon and Once Upon a Time in the West. The film proves over and over again that, given the choice between pleasing a child and getting a smile from a grown-up spaghetti-Western fan, it’ll go for the latter every time, be it through classic Western compositions (the hero riding against a sunset—only it’s a lizard on a road runner) or an over-the-head reference to a beloved film (as well as nods to non-Westerns like Singin’ in the Rain, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Raising Arizona, and Chinatown, among others).

If there’s an immediate indication of the film’s intentions, it’s the designs of the characters. They are not child-pleasing. Production designer Mark ‘Crash’ McCreery emphasized what was least cute about Dirt’s denizens—Rango’s bulging asymmetrical eyes, Mayor’s weathered turtle skin—and then added a layer of dirt, grime, dust, and general grunginess for good measure. At one point in the Blu-Ray’s commentary—which is, no pun intended, pretty dry—one of the filmmakers remarked that he wished he could pop out one of the characters’ eyeballs and give it a good scrubbing, that’s how dingy it looked. Watching Rango can make you itchy and thirsty."

Click through to read the rest of the review at PopMatters.

July Issue: Best of Westchester Arts & Leisure

For our annual Best of Westchester issue.

Arts & Leisure

"Best Indie Bookstore

The Village Book Store

Pleasantville

(914) 769-8322

Amazon.com? No way. The Village Book Store owner Roy Solomon is a living, breathing database of books. (We’d say he’s a living card catalogue, but that’s so 20th-century.) Plus, you can access his knowledge without agonizing over the most efficient search terms. (And he’ll never end up trying to sell you something like patio furniture—can you say that about your favorite online retailer?) Book groups stumped for their next selection and anxious gift-givers rely on his recommendations. And so should you."


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July Issue: Pirate Festival

Plunder Boys

"Forget Johnny Depp. In fact, forget the Caribbean. The area’s true swashbucklers are going to be at Philipsburg Manor for Pirates of the Hudson: The Siege of Sleepy Hollow from July 2 to July 4. (Because nothing says patriotism like a little piracy.)

Pirates, after all, have been known to sail the Hudson—and cause consternation for Frederick Philipse, the Lord of the Manor. 'The Philipse family businesses involved, among other things, trading on the high seas, and piracy was a huge issue,' says Rob Schweitzer, spokesperson for Historic Hudson Valley. 'Legend holds that Frederick Philipse and Captain Kidd were, indeed, friends, and Kidd would land at Kingsland Point to meet with Philipse and trade with him, likely from his prizes as a legal privateer. When Kidd was named a pirate in 1698, Kidd and Philipse’s friendship would have greatly hurt Philipse’s name, and it may or may not have been used by then-Governor of New York Lord Richard Bellomont in kicking Philipse off the Governor’s Executive Council.'”


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Photo by  Bryan Haeffele

July: In Every Issue

Culture, Etc.
Independence Day, Martin Short, and more.

"Surreality Show

There’s something surreal about watching movies outdoors. There are no walls, no doors, and no sticky multiplex floors as the images just float in front of you. The Katonah Museum of Art takes that nebulous feeling one step further with its “Surrealist Outdoor Cinema” series. Planned in conjunction with the Double Solitaire exhibition, the series includes three other-wordly films: Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (July 14), Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (July 21), and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (July 28). Award-winning editor Andy Keir (True Blood) curated the series and will provide an intro to each film. Grounds open at 8:30 pm for picnics."

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Time Out New York: Staycations

I contributed two articles to Time Out New York's feature package on New York City staycations.

Island-cation

"Governors Island
What was once a vacated rock in the New York Harbor, abandoned by the Coast Guard in 1995, is now a haven for creative types. This year, find more than a dozen free exhibitions throughout the island. For instance, the artists’ festival Figment is displaying interactive sculptures, while Storm King Art Center hosts a retrospective of sculptor Mark di Suvero. Keep an eye on the schedule for big summer concerts, too, including the The Governors Ball with Girl Talk, Empire of the Sun and Big Boi (Sat 18 noon–11:30pm; $95–$150), or ditch work early and ferry over any Friday to borrow a pair of wheels from Bike and Roll (10am–4:30pm, last rental 3:30pm; first hour free, each additional hour $12). Cool off with a drink (and maybe some grilled kielbasa) at the sandy Water Taxi Beach, which also has the best views of downtown Manhattan. (212-825-3045, govisland.com). Fri–Sun through Sept 25. Travel: Ferries leave from the Battery Maritime Building, Slip 7, in Manhattan and Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn."

Click through to read the rest of the article at Time Out New York.

Station-cation
"Otto and Orient Express
Mario Batali’s pizza joint, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria (1 Fifth Ave at 8th St; 212-995-9559, ottopizzeria.com) is modeled after an Italian train station, which becomes apparent as soon as you put your name in for a table and the hostess issues you a “train ticket” bearing the name of an Italian town. When it’s time to be seated, you’ll find that place announced on a departures board—the old-timey kind with flip-down letters. Then you’ll be on your way to your culinary satisfaction—maybe via a garlicky vongole pizza topped with clams, a mini carafe of wine from the extensive 700-bottle list and an award-winning gelato. Continue your journey on the Orient Express (325 W 11th St between Greenwich and Washington Sts; 212-691-8845, orientexpressnyc.com), which is set up to look like a bar car on an old-fashioned train. The drinks menu here is similarly themed, with cocktails that have cloak-and-dagger-sounding names like the Mata Hari (Bulleit bourbon, Pierde Almas mezcal, lemon juice, agave, ginger, aloe; $14) or the From Russia with Love (Russian Standard vodka, ginger, lime, rosewater rinse; $12)."

Click through to read the rest of the article at Time Out New York.

Movie Review: Submarine

'Submarine': A Bit of an Affectation

"As neat as these storylines might seem on the surface, however, Richard Ayoade’s film runs into some trouble deciding on a format. A mishmash of structures, Submarine is divided into three 'chapters,' suggesting a book. At one point, Oliver imagines that his life is the subject of a news report, with a broadcaster live on the scene interviewing his family and classmates. At another, he describes a two-week period as being committed to the 'Super 8 of memory,' segueing into a montage of grainy footage, and in yet another, he uses language that conjures lush, cinematic, feature film moments. We’re lucky that the film, adapted from the novel by Joe Dunthorne, takes place in the 1980s, or we’d also have to sit through Oliver’s Facebook posts and FaceTime chats."

Click through to read the rest of the review on PopMatters.

June Issue: Summer Fun Cover Story

Summer Fun

For the June cover, I produced a feature package on the best ways to enjoy summer in Westchester County, from driving race cars to seeing Shakespeare outdoors to heading to one of a million local beaches. You can read an excerpt below and follow the link to read the rest of the article, or you can download the PDF.

"Wear Your Favorite Eye Patch

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for…you. Forget the Pirates of the Caribbean—the Pirates of the Hudson have arrived and have laid siege to Philipsburg Manor. If you dare, you can put on your finest bandana, hook hand, peg leg, or shoulder parrot, and mingle among them. There, you’ll see belly dancers gyrating to the sounds of pirate musicians, shop for fenced booty from the Thieves Market, marvel at the Museum of Oddities, feast on foods prepared by Tastefully Yours, and imbibe grog from the Captain Lawrence Brewery. (Just keep an eye on your own wallet—these scalawags have sticky fingers.) Pirates-in-training can take part in a treasure hunt and climb on a shipwreck—or be forced to walk its plank. Pirates of the Hudson: The Siege of Sleepy Hollow comes to us from the same people who brought us the Horseman’s Hollow event on Halloween. The event takes place from July 2 to July 4 and, as with the Horseman’s Hollow, you must have a timed ticket to enter. For more information, call (914) 631-8200 or visit hudsonvalley.org."

Click here to read the full article online.


Two Man Gentleman Band photo by Putnam Bean; Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival ten photo by William Marsh; Pirates photo by Bryan Haeffele.

June Issue: A Q&A with the Head of the Caramoor International Music Festival

Classic Caramoor

"You’re conducting the 'Pops, Patriots, and Fireworks' performance on July 3. Why did you choose to lead that one?
I don’t consider myself a Pops guy, but what I like is to make what looks like a Pops program, but actually has much more meat on its bones. Like last year, we did the 1812 Overture, which is done all the time on the Fourth of July. To mix it up, I added a Theremin. At these things, you can expect to hear Sousa and maybe Gershwin—but you don’t expect to hear a Theremin. This year, Charles Yang is going to play the "Yankee Doodle" variations on the electric violin. It doesn’t even look like a violin, it looks like a stick with strings on it. He is amazing. So I like Pops concerts when I can add something unexpected."

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Photo by Gabe Palacio

June Issue: Survivor Singer Teaches at Local Camp

Rock On

"You know Dave Bickler’s voice. The Chappaqua resident (since 2004) is best known for being the lead singer for the rock-band Survivor—yes, that’s him singing 'Eye of the Tiger' on the Rocky III soundtrack. (He’s also the one doing the vocal heavy lifting on those Bud Light 'Real Men of Genius' ads.) This summer, he’ll be passing on his rock mojo to the next generation of artists by teaching voice and performance at Chappaqua Rocks day camp."

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June Issue: Scientific Testing on a Suburban Legend

Who Is the Leatherman?

"Things are not so good for the Leatherman, the mysterious wanderer who wore a homemade all-leather suit and walked a near constant, 365-mile looping trail from Westchester to Connecticut. His grave is close to a busy street. It’s shabby and gets desiccated. And—worst of all—it is marked with the wrong man’s name. To fix these wrongs, the State Supreme Court of New York recently ruled that the body of the Leatherman could be exhumed, moved, and reburied.

But moving the remains isn’t the only goal. With a few simple scientific tests, we can learn more about the famed Leatherman, separating man from myth. The Ossining Historical Society approached Nicholas F. Bellantoni, the Connecticut State Archaeologist, to lead the team of scientists conducting the tests and eventually re-interring the body.

'Of course, this is all predicated on there being preserved organic material to test,' Bellantoni says. 'I’ve seen graves like this where there’s nothing left but soil.' Here, he leads us through some of the tests and what we can learn from them.

Gross Morphology Examination—His skeleton alone can tell us his age, whether he had any severe traumas, or whether he had certain diseases. (If he had TB, for example, lesions would be visible on his ribs.) 'We expect to see a robust musculature,' Bellantoni says. 'After all, he walked for forty years of his life.'”

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