I Saw the LightBritish actor Tom Hiddleston plays country music immortal Hank Williams in I SAW THE LIGHT, screening in a Thursday sneak-preview fundraiser at Red Bank’s Bow Tie Cinemas.

Beginning Thursday night, and continuing in monthly installments through Spring 2016, downtown Red Bank’s Bow Tie Cinemas is once again the scene for a set of feature film premieres.

Not the red-carpet, “who-are-you-wearing” variety, mind you, but still, a series of sneak-preview screenings that positions the Greater Red Bank Green as a go-to destination for talked-about indies from such major festivals as Sundance, Tribeca and Cannes.

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SOPHIA-LOREN_470x350Screen siren Sophia Loren (above) graces the Count Basie stage Thursday, and Broadway dynamo Patti LuPone (below) follows one night later.  

Patti LuPoneWait, $425 for a single ticket to the Count Basie Theatre? This had better be something special — like, a “once-in-a-lifetime, VIP, limited meet-and-greet” opportunity with one of the world’s most recognized and iconic leading women of film.

Turns out it really is that, as the Red Bank landmark adds to its list of beyond-legendary visitors (Cary Grant, George Carlin, Ringo Starr) with a Thursday-night appearance by Sophia Loren, the Italian-born international movie star and style pacesetter.

And it’s just the first of two events in a row to feature female performers who’ve won worldwide acclaim.

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The trailer for ‘Consumed,’ which gets a one-time showing in Red Bank Wednesday night. (Click to enlarge)

HOT-TOPIC_03It hasn’t exactly scorched the box office, and you didn’t see it sweep Sunday night’s Academy Awards. But in the parlance of the Hollywood pitch, Consumed has it all: a mystery you can sink your teeth into, a take-charge female protagonist, a sick kid, a race against time, shadowy conspiracies, and the kind of global armageddon scenario that’s a cornerstone of the modern movie blockbuster.

The threat in this case comes from the insidious presence in food of Genetically Modified Organisms, and when the dramatic feature by director Daryl Wein comes to Red Bank’s Bow Tie Cinemas for a one-time screening on Wednesday, it will make no bones about its anti-GMO stance, and pull no punches about its point of view.

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Gary Cooper carLate Hollywood legend Gary Cooper possessed a certain ‘Enduring Style,’ the title of a new book co-authored by his daughter, who visits Red Bank on Saturday.

Enduring StyleComedians of the era suggested that his entire vocabulary consisted of the words “yup” and “nope.” There was always something of the Montana-born cowboy in his characters, whether he was playing a professor (Ball of Fire), Lewis Carroll’s White Knight (Alice in Wonderland), or Lou Gehrig in Pride of the Yankees. 

But Gary Cooper could also rock a premiere-party tux, a day-at-the-races houndstooth blazer, or an anyone-for-tennis ensemble of casual cool. The golden-age Hollywood legend’s sense of Enduring Style is the subject of a book co-authored by his daughter, Maria Cooper Janis, and the centerpiece of an event dubbed”Oscar Saturday” at Garmany of Red Bank.

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basie screen 070114The big screen at the Count Basie Theatre, seen here during a live broadcast of the 2014 World Cup, will serve as the home screen for a film festival scheduled to run in July. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


ClapboardKept on a restricted diet for the past eight years, Red Bank-area fans of independent movies will finally get to binge again this summer.

An outfit called Indie Street — in conjunction with Red Bank RiverCenter, three major entertainment venues and even the borough middle school — is planning screenings of as many as 30 films over five days in July.

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Tim HuttonAcademy Award winner Timothy Hutton (above) joins CLERKS star Brian O’Halloran (below) on the panel of esteemed adjudicators who will select finalists in the Count Basie Theatre’s annual Project FX competition for New Jersey student filmmakers. The deadline for entries has been extended until March 1, 2016.

Press release from Count Basie Theatre

Brian O'HalloranThe Count Basie Theatre has extended its entry deadline and announced its panel of esteemed judges for Project FX, its statewide student film festival presented by Bank Of America and Sony Pictures Classics.

Students aged 16-25 and presently enrolled in a Garden State-based high school or college now have until midnight on March 1, 2016 to enter their films at www.projectfxbasie.comThe top vote-getter in each category will win a paid internship experience with Sony Pictures Classics in New York, as well as a screening during the first-ever Indie Street Film Festival in Red Bank in July. Second place winners in each category will receive Sony video cameras, while third-place finishers will receive a $500 cash prize.

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wish 28 021216The interior of Wish 28, owned by twin sisters — and itself the twin of a boutique called Wish in Morris County. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


retail churn smallIn this Retail Churn: The latest addition to the Red Bank shopping scene is a women’s clothing and accessories store owned by two women with mob ties.

The fictional mob, that is.

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Shatners_World-770-525x306Pop-cultural icon comes to the stage of the Count Basie Theatre this Friday night. 

Unlike the planet-dominating Skynet of the Terminator movies, it’s unclear as to exactly when William Shatner became self-aware. But from the moment it happened, this world has not been the same. And for about 90 minutes Friday night, the Red Bank area audience will be offered an opportunity to plug into the old-soul consciousness and galaxy-spanning ego that lords over Shatner’s World.

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Shatner Khan“KHAAANNNN!” The coming of the mighty Shatner is heralded at the Count Basie Theatre with a three night Kirk-out of films in the classic STAR TREK franchise. Below,Middletown’s own Billy Van Zandt as the “Alien Boy.” 

Billy Van Zandt Alien Boy Star TrekThe famous boards of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre have hosted a veritable Who’s Who of larger-than-life luminaries, from the crowned heads of Hollywood (Cary Grant, Mickey Rooney, Myrna Loy, Al Pacino) to the brightest lights of the performing arts stage (Idina Menzel, Martha Graham, Marcel Marceau); from comedy kingpins (George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Stephen Colbert) to reality-TV sensations; from music monuments (James Brown, B.B. King, Tony Bennett, Ringo Starr) to homegrown heroes Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi.

That said, not even borough-born Count Basie himself commanded the kind of build-up being granted the showbiz legend who arrives at station stop Red Bank on February 5: actor, author, director, spokesman and ultimate song stylist William Shatner.

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elvisDouble Trouble: Mike Albert and Scot Bruce (above) represent two different eras of Elvis Presley’s legacy, as the King’s eleventh annual Birthday Bash returns to the Basie on Friday night…while Elvis Costello (below) is in concert and on screen for a Thursday night showing of his “live” film DETOUR.

costello detourAs Scot Bruce tells it, Red Bank is “a great place to play;” the kind of town in which “The King is alive and well.” The veteran entertainer ought to know, since he makes it a point every year at this time to pull the tour bus up to the Count Basie Theatre for one of the greater Green’s most cherished winter rituals — the Elvis Birthday Bash, the eleventh annual edition of which takes to the Basie boards this Friday, January 15.

Before Taking Care of THAT Business, however, the Count’s crib makes room for an Elvis of another time and place: Elvis Costello, the Brit-born singer and songsmith who’s matured into a musicologist of remarkable depth and staying power, since exploding onto the scene as a bespectacled and attitude-infused punk-era troubador in 1977. The artist formerly known as Declan McManus (who’s made multiple in-person visits to the Monmouth Street landmark, as has his jazz-chanteuse spouse Diana Krall) will appear this time on the screen, during an exclusive area exhibit of the new concert film Detour: Live At the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall this Thursday, January 14. Recorded during a hometown stop on his recent  international tour, the 100 minute feature shows Costello in an intimate “living room” setting; accompanied by guitar, piano and occasional ukelele (plus framed by projected images of vintage family photos).

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cliff keen 122315Cliff Keen, above, is the new director of public utilities, and Charlie Hoffmann, below, runs parks and rec. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


charlie hoffmann 122115Recent months have brought some new faces to Red Bank government.

In particular, three departments that residents have regular interaction with, and occasional strong opinions about, are under new leadership: parks and recreation; planning and zoning; and public utilities.

Here’s a quick intro to the new directors.

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Nebraska XmasThe forecast calls for indoor snow, timely spirits and much music, as A CHRISTMAS CAROL heralds a week of holiday entertainments on the Count Basie stage.

frozen-sing-alongThe dizzyingly jam-packed days of December continue apace at the Count Basie Theatre, where the stage of the area’s most Christmassy performing arts center receives visitations by holiday-themed entertainments hailing from points near and far.

Here are three, one each for the next trio of nights.

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As part of the Social Action Film Series, the documentary feature ‘Wings of Life’ screens for free this Sunday evening at the Unitarian Meetinghouse in Lincroft.

We’ve long looked to “the birds and the bees” as fleet-flying messengers of the Facts of Life — but just as crucial to the maintenance of life on earth are the butterflies, the bats, and the blossoms.

On Sunday, a worship space in Lincroft plans to host a free screening of Wings of Life, a DisneyNature documentary feature narrated by Meryl Streep that explores the often unheralded ways in which some of the world’s most endangered species hold the key to the continued existence of all living things on the planet.

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Press release from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School

On the evening of Thursday, November 12, the feature-length documentary film Beyond Measure will be given a free, public-invited screening inside the auditorium of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School. The follow-up to the groundbreaking Race to Nowhere: the Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture will be presented at 7 pm, in an event hosted by the RFH School District, and by the Rumson Borough and Fair Haven Borough School Districts.

Admission is free, but seats must be reserved in advance by visiting the RFH web site, and clicking the link on the Home Page.

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Here’s the trailer to “After Sandy,” a new film made over the past three years by Middetown resident Joe Minnella to document the rebuilding efforts at the Jersey shore in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Minnella and Anthony Jude Setaro of Red Bank, who produced the film, are alumni of Red Bank Catholic High School.

To view the full  100-minute film, click “like” at the “After Sandy” Facebook page and you’ll receive a link to the film page at 8 p.m. on Thursday. The film will be available for viewing until 8 p.m Friday. (Click to enlarge)



Project-FX-2016-webPress release from Count Basie Theatre

They come from communities all over New Jersey; from high schools and colleges with a campus anywhere in the Garden State. And on April 17, 2016, the Count Basie Theatre spotlights the work of a new generation of directors and documentarians, with the second annual edition of the statewide student film competition known as Project FX.

From now through February 1, 2016, filmmakers affiliated with a New Jersey college or high school are encouraged to enter a short work in the competition, with the winning films in each category receiving a screening and distribution consideration via a new, major film festival coming to the Basie, to be announced in 2016. The event’s grand prize winner will be granted an internship with Sony Pictures Classics, the major distributor headed by Middletown-based Tom Bernard.

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cbpac 092115 2
Guests mingled in the new Count Basie Theatre Performing Arts Academy Monday. Below, Yvonne Lamb Scudiery and Mayor Pasquale Menna spoke at the unveiling. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


cbpac 092115 1Old-timers will recall its days as a WaWa, but its future is as a laboratory for the arts.

So say officials at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre Performing Arts Academy about the onetime convenience store that is now the academy’s home.

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AugustWilsonThe documentary feature AUGUST WILSON: THE GROUND ON WHICH I STAND receives a free public-welcome screening on August 19 at Two River Theater. The 7:30 pm event is just part of a slate of special happenings keyed to the Two River production of Wilson’s SEVEN GUITARS, opening September 12 as the first show in the new season.

Press release from The T. Thomas Fortune Project

A free documentary film screening, a Birthday Bash fundraiser for a celebrated figure in Red Bank history, a lecture on the legacy of a great American playwright. All this, plus a Soulful Cook-Off and a Bid Whist Tournament — and all of it keyed to the opening of Seven Guitars, the first production of the new 2015-2016 season at Two River Theater.

The latest in Two River Theater Company’s series of dramas written by August Wilson, Seven Guitars goes up in previews on September 12; opening on September 18 and running a limited engagement through October 4 under the direction of frequent TRTC lead actor Brandon J. Dirden. As an appetizer for that main course, the theater invites one and all to a free screening of August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand, on the evening of Wednesday, August 19. Scheduled for 7:30 pm inside the main Rechnitz auditorium at Two River, the documentary feature (originally produced as part of the PBS series American Masters)  offers an inside look at the Tony- and Pulitzer winning dramatist who examined African American life in the 20th century through his home turf of Pittsburgh’s Hill District. While admission is free of charge, seating must be reserved by calling the box office at (732)345-1400.

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Above&BeyondCongregation B’nai Israel’s “Lunch and a Movie” series continues on Thursday, August 13, with a screening of producer Nancy Spielberg’s documentary feature ABOVE AND BEYOND.

Press release from Congreagtion B’Nai Israel

Would you risk everything…your future, your citizenship, even your life…to help a brother in need?

In 1948, just three years after the liberation of the Nazi death camps, a group of Jewish American pilots answered a call for help. In secret and at great personal risk, they smuggled planes out of the U.S., trained behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia, and flew for Israel in its War of Independence. As members of Machal (“volunteers from abroad”), this ragtag band of brothers not only turned the tide of the war; they also embarked on personal journeys of discovery and renewed Jewish pride.

Directed by Roberta Grossman and produced by Nancy Spielberg — sister of Academy Award winning producer-director Steven Spielberg, whose many modern classics include Schindler’s List — the documentary feature Above and Beyond tells their story. On Thursday, August 13 at 11:30 am, Congregation B’nai Israel (CBI) will screen the film as the latest in its series of “Lunch and a Movie” events.

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Motor CityLayonne Holmes (right) and the Motor City Revue roar into Sandy Hook as the up-next act in the summer beach concert series. Weather permitting, Tuesday night marks the twice-scheduled debut of Red Bank’s Dog Days of Summer.

rb dogs 061714 6[UPDATE, July 20, 2 p.m. Once again, the Dog Days event is being postponed, this time because of high temperatures, RiverCenter announced. The event is tentatively scheduled to be held Wednesday, July 22, at 6 p.m.]

Gripe all you will about summer traffic, summer crowds, summer expenses: the season for warm-weather diversion can seem especially fleeting when viewed through the frosted panes of our extended polar-vortex winters. And between Tuesday evening and Thursday afternoon, we’ve got a whole range of excuses for getting out of the house, beginning with the latest in the 2015 series of Red Bank Dog Days of Summer .

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IrrationalEmma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix pair up in IRRATIONAL MAN, the latest feature from writer-director Woody Allen, and the latest sneak-peek screening from the folks at the borough-based Monmouth Arts Council.

It’s as dependable as beach fees, summer gas prices or the annual appearance of a new feature film from writer, director and occasional star Woody Allen.

Once or twice each year, audiences on the Greater Red Bank Green are offered the chance to catch a buzzed-about arthouse movie, screened in advance of its general release as a fundraiser for the folks at Red Bank’s own Monmouth County Arts Council.

Coordinated by Middletown-based Tom Bernard of Sony Pictures Classics, and hosted at Bow Tie Cinemas on White Street, these events have often dipped into the seemingly bottomless well of the prolific Woodman’s cinematic legacy, as with last year’s preview of Magic by Moonlight. This Thursday evening, the stars align once more as the MCAC presents a sneak-peek look at the director’s 50th feature, Irrational Man.

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TKAMThe 1962 film version of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ screens for free at the Count Basie Theatre Tuesday as River Road Books celebrates the July 14 publication of Harper Lee’s long-awaited followup, ‘Go Set a Watchman.’

It’s panning out to be the most eagerly anticipated event in the digitally driven, radically reconfigured 21st century publishing industry, one centering around a story that was pecked out on a manual typewriter nearly 60 years ago. The first book published by the reclusive novelist Harper Lee in more than half a century, Go Set a Watchman stands as a sequel to the author’s To Kill a Mockingbird, even though it was written – and subsequently filed away–  prior to that 1960 classic of modern American lit.

On Tuesday, July 14, Fair Haven’s River Road Books marks the official publication date of Watchman with a special event at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre: a free screening of the 1962 film version of Mockingbird.

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basie-marquee-3-090213-500x375donegoodlogoRed Bank’s Count Basie Theatre is $1 million richer this month, thanks to a Brielle-based charity. The Charles Lafitte Foundation, founded by Vonage board chairman Jeffrey Citron and his wife, Suzanne, matched funds raised at the foundation’s annual single-beneficiary golf outing, held June 29 in Union County, to raise a record sum for the theater.

Adam Philipson, the Basie’s president and CEO, said the money will be used to create an endowment that will make the arts available to students of all backgrounds “for generations to come.” (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)



St VincentMelissa McCarthy and Bill Murray are neighbors thrown together by necessity in ST. VINCENT, one of the free movies screening in July at Middletown Library. 

The free Movie Mondays (and select Fridays) series of screenings continues through July in the climate controlled Community Room at Middletown Township Public Library — a summertime slate that focuses once again on some features of very recent vintage; nearly all of which saw release within the past twelve months.

The Monday matinees resume at 2:30 pm today, July 6 with Melissa McCarthy as a single mom who’s forced to enlist her drinking, gambling, entirely disagreeable next door neighbor (Bill Murray) as adult caregiver to her son — thereby initiating a scenario of illicit kicks and heartwarming bonding — in St. Vincent. The week is bookended with the latest in a recently established series of New Film Fridays, with Jennifer Lawrence and all-star supporting cast in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 — penultimate installment in the four-part “trilogy” adapted from Suzanne Collins’ phenom sci-fi series (and prelude to Part 2, scheduled for release this November).

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KevinJamesmarcMaronTop-of-their-game comedy kingpins Kevin James (Saturday; two shows) and Marc Maron (Sunday) bring their crowd-tested mojo to the stage of the Count Basie Theatre on a busy weekend of laughs.

So you’ve just made serious news-cycle headlines by booking the President of the United States on your garage-based podcast. Or, you’ve watched as your big-screen starring vehicles have racked up nearly a billion bucks in worldwide box office. If your name is Kevin James or Marc Maron, however, you’ll never truly ditch the itch to return to the live-audience roots that set it all in motion — and this weekend, the Count Basie Theatre hosts two of the hottest names in comedy, as they keep their very different standup skills honed before appreciative crowds at the area’s premier theater-scale Chuckle Hut.

This Saturday, June 27 finds the amiable star of TV’s King of Queens (and cinematic franchises that include Paul Blart, Mall Cop and Grown Ups) leaving the Segway in the wings and treading the Basie boards for a pair of shows that spotlight the largely family-friendly, New York working-dude brand of observational humor that’s formed the foundation of his phenomenal showbiz run. continues to Tickets to the 7:30 pm show ($49 – $89) are still available here. Then take it here for tix to Saturday’s 9:30 pm event, or take it around the bend for something completely different.

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