Mosque, community members share respect

I was mayor of East Brunswick and a member of the Planning Board when our diverse community was honored to be chosen as the town in which to build the incredibly beautiful mosque along Dunhams Corner Road. All of East Brunswick should be proud that the new neighbors have added so much to our image as a strong, vibrant community that can share its devotion and spirituality with the other 34 different religious congregations throughout our town.

The congregants at the mosque were gracious, kind and patient throughout the entire laborious process of planning, zoning and construction. I have been honored to be part of their holidays and special events. I know of no one in East Brunswick who has ever had a negative experience with the congregation.

I wish that our good example of inclusion and hospitality would be an example about how the rest of the world should learn to live in peace.

I hope that the rhetoric and xenophobia expressed by a few high-profile political leaders in the state and the nation won’t diminish the respect we all must share among people, especially during these holidays when the oil lamps continue to glow while others will yearn to sleep in heavenly peace.

Bill Neary
East Brunswick

Time capsule contains treasure trove of 1965 info for students

By KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

 A time capsule filled with handwritten letters in script by students in 1965 to the students in 2015, class photos, yearbooks and other mementos were unveiled at a celebration at Southwood Elementary School in Old Bridge on Dec. 1. A time capsule filled with handwritten letters in script by students in 1965 to the students in 2015, class photos, yearbooks and other mementos were unveiled at a celebration at Southwood Elementary School in Old Bridge on Dec. 1. OLD BRIDGE — The year was 1965: The war in Vietnam was escalating, Lyndon B. Johnson was the president of the United States and the British rock band “The Beatles” was all the rage.

Glenn Zellers, who was an eighth-grade student at Southwood Elementary School at the time, said what he enjoyed most about living in 1965 was McDonald’s and “Mike the submarine shop.”

“McDonald’s is a 15-cent hamburger place on Route 18 in East Brunswick,” he wrote. “Another place is Mike the submarine shop on Matawan Road in Old Bridge.”

Zellers’ letter to the class of 2015 was one of many letters found in a time capsule that was unveiled at a celebration at Southwood Elementary School on Dec. 1.

 PHOTOS BY KATHY CHANG/STAFF PHOTOS BY KATHY CHANG/STAFF Retired kindergarten teacher Relly Liebowitz said she started pushing to find the time capsule a few years ago.

Last spring, Principal Karen M. Foley said Tim Craft of the Department of Maintenance at the school took a look behind the 1965 cornerstone, which revealed a treasure trove of mementos from the school.

“The find was pretty impressive,” she said.

The items in the cornerstone included hand-written letters in script by the pupils to their 2015 counterparts. Others included class photos, yearbooks and other mementos.

“Hello. How is your flying car?” student Charles Miller wrote. “I always wondered when the world would be like the Jetsons on TV. … The houses must look very weird.”

Old Bridge Mayor Owen Henry and Schools Superintendent David Cittadino joined the Southwood staff and members of the Parent Teacher Organization for the celebration.

Also participating was Melanie Minch- Klass, a 1969 graduate of Southwood, who is now supervisor of special services in the district. She read a letter from former Schools Superintendent Andrew Korshalla.

Staff members chose favorite portions of letters to read, which let students know the conditions at the time, from President John F. Kennedy being assassinated two years prior, to the war in Vietnam, to race relations that resulted in riots in Los Angeles, Mississippi and other southern states.

“There is a war going on in Vietnam now,” wrote student Kathryn David. “The United States has won some of the battles and the [guerrillas] have won some.”

One pupil asked the students of 2015 if the United States won the Vietnam War.

Other fun tidbits of the time included an early Touch Tone telephone and box television; boxer Muhammad Ali defeated Sonny Liston for the World Heavyweight Championship; and the average cost of a house was $13,600 and a gallon of gas sold for 31 cents.

Liebowitz spoke about her time at Southwood as an educator, which was at the time of the building expansion.

Principal Karen Foley said the school, after emptying the time capsule’s contents, plans to refill it with memorabilia from current Southwood pupils so it can be reopened in 2065.

Mariah Carey directs and stars with Lacey Chabert in ‘A Christmas Melody’

By Kellie Freeze,

 Lacey Chabert Lacey Chabert Mariah Carey’s music is an integral part of the holiday season, and now the Christmas chanteuse is gifting her talents to Hallmark’s most musical holiday film. The singer/actress is directing her first film, the aptly named A Christmas Melody, premiering Dec. 19 on Hallmark Channel.

The film stars Lacey Chabert as Kristin, a young fashion designer who shutters her big-city boutique and moves back to her hometown with her daughter (singing sensation Fina Strazza, of Broadway’s Matilda) in tow. The duo face a tumultuous adjustment to small-town life, further complicated by Kristin’s highschool nemesis (Carey). But the plucky family braves each challenge with the help of Kristin’s aunt — a local coffee shop owner (Kathy Najimy) — and the hunky local music teacher (Brennan Elliott).

Chabert reveals that one thing she and Carey bonded over was their mutual love of the holiday season. “I never thought anyone could love Christmas as much as I do until I met Mariah Carey,” she says. “She absolutely adores Christmas!” The pair also chatted about their love of holiday tunes, and Chabert admits that she has Carey’s holiday CDs on a near-constant loop.

Chabert also delights in the scenes she shot with her director, where Carey gets to flex her comedy chops as a mean girl. “She was excellent at those scenes,” says Chabert. “I really enjoyed those scenes with her so much, because they are really funny and of course, because it is Hallmark, you know that nothing’s too mean-spirited.” The repartee in the duo’s scenes is the film’s funniest.

The film, part of Hallmark’s “Countdown to Christmas,” has all of the family-friendly trappings we would expect from the network’s popular holiday programming block. And, of course, Carey adds her impeccable taste to the film’s visual design. “She is Miss Christmas,” laughs Chabert. “She has such a great eye for aesthetics and knowing what looks best, and what looks flattering and beautiful. She really wanted to capture the Christmas spirit and I feel like the movie did that. She really is a fantastic director.”

In addition to directing and starring in the festive flick, Carey also lends one of her most charming holiday hits to the film’s soundtrack. Carey isn’t the one singing “Oh Santa!” — but the upbeat and cheerful Christmas tune is pure perfection when sung by young phenom Strazza.

When we spoke, Chabert gushed about her young costar. “She is amazing. Fina is remarkably talented and so smart for her age. I mean … I shouldn’t even say ‘for her age.’ She is so smart in general. Just a wonderfully talented child and it was funny all that we have in common. I was actually on Broadway in Les Misérables at the same exact age. and she has been doing Broadway’s Matilda.” She adds, “I looked at her and she is just so tiny and young and it was hard to imagine myself ever being that tiny and young and handling your responsibility of performing in front of thousands of people live every night. It was just kind of cool to walk down memory lane with her.”

Chabert also shares high praise for her other castmates, saying Najimy “is a doll,” and considering Elliot — with whom she recently costarred in Hallmark’s All of My Heart — “a good friend.” The actress adds, “It is really nice to work with people who you get along with so well.”

The cast’s chemistry is palpable, their talent divine, and with Carey’s attention to directorial detail and discerning eye, this Christmas charmer may enjoy the same longevity as her other holiday classics.

Tom Hardy delivers a master class

In theaters now

Director Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential) introduces viewers to the Kray twins in his new film, Legend. The identical twin gangsters, Reggie and Ronnie, were two of the most notorious criminals in British history. Their empire rose in London’s East End during the 1960s and they dominated much of the illegal activity there. Helgeland’s film is a close examination of the twins, both portrayed by Tom Hardy.

Reggie Kray was the quiet but merciless twin — feared and revered at the same time, as many gangsters have been throughout history. He fashioned himself into a club owner, and though that wasn’t his primary source of income, it had a more legitimate ring to it. Frances Shea (Emily Browning) caught his eye and he was willing to do anything for her, though the one thing he could never seem to do was to become a truly legitimate businessman.

Ronnie Kray had been in a mental institution due to his instability. Quick to snap, Ronnie was the less rational of the two, and after his brother had him declared sane — through threats, of course — he worked with Reggie in their rise to dominance.

Despite disagreements between the two, they were brothers so devoted to each other that, to solve matters, each looked past the other’s shortcomings. While Reggie often looked out for Ronnie, Ronnie also had his own way of looking out for Reggie. Together their rise was impressive and, yes, legendary.

Brutal, yet orchestrated like a carefully crafted symphony, Legend tells us a story with visually striking images that are disconcerting but necessary — necessary to relay the otherwise indescribable violence that took place during the Krays’ rise to prominence. Helgeland, in both writing and directing the film, is deeply invested in the portrayal and walks a fine line with Legend’s violence. It’s harsh but not gratuitous.

The real star of this film is Tom Hardy, who portrays both twins; it’s a master class in acting. He transports himself from brother to brother with seeming ease, all the way down to the simple physical mannerisms of each twin. It feels as though he totally embodies each twin for who they are and what they possess. There aren’t many other actors who could be counted on to display this level of nuance in these roles.

This Legend is worth the price of admission just to see Tom Hardy; the rest is a bonus. The film is beautiful yet violent, compassionate yet abusive — all at once.

Legend
Rated: R
Stars: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning,
Taron Egerton
Director: Brian Helgeland
Grade: B

Holiday movie preview

In theaters now

As we race to the end of 2015, we will be greeted by a slew of big movies. Some movies will prosper, some will fail and some will get nominated for awards (both good and bad) — but all will bring their unique visions to the screen to share with us. Let’s peer through some rose-colored glasses at the month of December and what the holiday movie season holds.

In the Heart of the Sea (Dec. 11) brings to the big screen director Ron Howard’s vision of the real maritime disaster that inspired the novel Moby Dick, with Chris Hemsworth in the lead role. This looks visually stunning.

Legend (Dec. 11) shares the story of identical-twin gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray. They are two of the most notorious true-life criminals you’ll ever see onscreen, and who are in reality very different and unique individuals — though Tom Hardy plays both.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (Dec. 18) features our favorite chipmunks on — you guessed it — a road trip. The only true family film released during the month, it might do surprisingly well.

Sisters (Dec. 18) arrives on the same weekend as Star Wars as an alternative for those not in the core Star Wars demographic. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler star and even encourage viewers to take in both Stars Wars and this film.

The Big Short (Dec. 23) is director Adam McKay’s peek into the credit and housing bubble collapse, with Christian Bale and Steve Carell leading an amazing cast.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Dec. 18) is the ultimate holiday film. Not only is it highly anticipated by fans and critics alike, but it’s also a film that can be shared with most of the family and is poised to garner enormous box office results. Do you have your tickets yet?

Concussion (Dec. 25) will explode onto screens with a very volatile subject as the NFL regular season wraps up. Will Smith leads a talented cast that turns a spotlight on the concussion problems that have plagued football for years.

Daddy’s Home (Dec. 25) presents a funny take on parenting from two very funny men, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. They play guys who are competing to win the favor of Wahlberg’s biological children, who are also Ferrell’s stepchildren.

Joy (Dec. 25) is poised for awards acclaim. Jennifer Lawrence stars in the latest from David O. Russell as Joy, a woman who takes an idea and turns it in to something special.

Point Break (Dec. 25) became a hit in 1991, starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in a Kathryn Bigelow-directed effort. In this version, inspired by the original, Luke Bracey and Édgar Ramírez go toe-to-toe in the extreme sports world.

These are just some of the great titles headed to theaters in December. Others that will sneak into select theaters before a wider release include The Hateful Eight from director Quentin Tarantino and The Revenant featuring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Ava Gardner

By David Cohea
ReMIND magazine

 Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner Ava Gardner was one of Hollywood’s most beautiful actresses during the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, starring in such films as The Killers, Show Boat, Mogambo (for which she was nominated for an Academy Award), On the Beach and Night of the Iguana.

A small-town girl from North Carolina, Gardner got her break in 1941 at age 18 while visiting her sister in New York. Her sister’s husband was a photographer and offered to take her portrait, and she consented. He liked the results so much that he displayed the picture in the front window of his studio.

This led to a screen test at the MGM office in New York, and while the talent scout thought she was a looker, he didn’t bother to record her voice due to her thick Southern accent. It wasn’t until he saw the results in the screening room that he saw how much the camera loved the young woman. After sending the test on to Hollywood, he received a telegram back from MGM head Louis B. Mayer that read: “She can’t sing, she can’t act, she can’t talk, she’s terrific!”

 Ava Gardner in 1951’s “Show Boat” Ava Gardner in 1951’s “Show Boat” Gardner was linked up with a vocal coach to lose her native Carolina drawl and soon began making bit appearances in various films, finally scoring a big role in producer Mark Hellinger’s noir film The Killers.

It wasn’t long thereafter that Ava Gardner was declared a star.

Offscreen, Gardner’s romances were even more stellar. After arriving in Los Angeles, she soon married fellow MGM contract player Mickey Rooney, but divorced a year later. After that she was married — also for a year — to big band leader Artie Shaw. She kept up a long friendship with Howard Hughes, though she said they were never romantically linked.

But the big romantic fireworks came with Gardner’s six-year marriage to Frank Sinatra. Sinatra had left his wife Nancy for Ava, and their subsequent marriage was savaged in the gossip columns, with Gardner characterized as a marriage-destroying femme fatale. But however tumultuous the relationship, both Gardner and Sinatra declared each other the love of their lives. (Sinatra once said it was Ava who taught him how to sing a torch song.)

Gardner had smaller roles in film and TV into the ’70s and ’80s, with appearances in disaster films like Earthquake and the primetime soap opera Knots Landing. She died of pneumonia at age 67. She was buried in Sunset Memorial Park in Smithfield, N.C., next to her siblings and their parents. A floral arrangement from Sinatra at her graveside simply read: “With my love, Francis.”

Gardner is listed as the No. 25 Female Screen Legend by the American Film Institute. Not bad for the little girl from North Carolina with the big Southern drawl and megawatt smile.

Did you know …

 Wes Chatham in “The Expanse”  RAFY/SYFY Wes Chatham in “The Expanse” RAFY/SYFY The highly anticipated 10-hour Syfy series “The Expanse” will premiere on Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 14 and 15, at 10 p.m.

This highly ambitious series is set 200 years in the future and follows the case of a missing young woman who brings a hardened detective (played by Thomas Jane) and a rogue ship’s captain (played by Steven Strait) together in a race across the solar system that will expose the greatest conspiracy in human history. Wes Chatham and Shohreh Aghdashloo also star, rounding out a very strong cast.

Hallmark Channel will premiere its movie “On the Twelfth Day of Christmas,” starring Brooke Nevin and Robin Dunne, on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. Mitch O’Grady was the Christmas romance that never was for Maggie Chalke. After he helped her have Christmas when Maggie was certain she was going to miss it, Mitch disappeared.

When Mitch returns ten years later as the local DJ, Maggie returns the favor by helping him learn to love Christmas again by sending him twelve Secret Santa gifts of things she knows he loves to do at Christmas.

NBC will air a special episode of “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” on Thursday, Dec. 17 at 10 p.m. Grylls and President Obama relish the great outdoors in an intimate and freewheeling discussion deep in the Alaskan wilderness. In this unprecedented telecast, famed survivalist Grylls and the President sojourn across the beautiful Alaskan countryside with the commander-in-chief revealing off-the-script stories.

In their intimate conversation, President Obama chats about what it means to be a father who happens to be President, his relationship with his wife and children and, like all parents, balancing time between work and home. No subject is off limits in this one-on-one interview.

Food drive

 PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON Democracy House, Middlesex County College’s service-learning program, recently collected more than 100 bags of food from the college community that it donated to Elijah’s Promise, the soup kitchen in New Brunswick. Pictured are Halimat Oshun of Iselin, left to right, Faculty Advisor Pattiann McMahon of South Plainfield, Coordinator Arianna Illa of South Brunswick, Cierrah Williams of Somerset, Mia Brenton of New Brunswick and Modepe Bello of Edison.

Coats for kids

 PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON The Association of Middlesex County College Nursing Students held its annual “Coats for Kids” coat drive, delivering 27 coats and six other items of winter apparel to the Raritan Bay Medical Center Pediatric Department. Pictured are Nursing Instructor/ Association Advisor Patricia Fox of East Brunswick, left to right, Treasurer Elisabeth Martinez of South Brunswick, Vice President So Chung of Edison, Secretary Nichole O’Donnell of Woodbridge, President Tara Renter of Old Bridge and Instructor/Association Advisor Luiza Asahme of Woodbridge.

Arlene H. Reich Montanaro

Arlene H. Reich Montanaro, 85, went to her eternal rest on Dec. 4 after a long illness.

A Jersey (City) girl, Arlene was the great-granddaughter of Irish famine immigrants, who came to Jersey City in 1846, and the granddaughter of German immigrants, who arrived there in 1889.

Arlene and her five brothers were raised by devoted parents in a family of modest means and an abundance of love. She brought the love of family to her own children, Maureen and Joseph, and to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Arlene worked conscientiously for many years in branch banking and was a favorite of her customers. She enjoyed going on bus rides to Atlantic City with friends and family; loved watching ice skating competitions on television; and had a gift for sewing.

Her generous spirit and unlimited love will be missed by her family and friends.

Arlene is survived by her daughter (and son-in-law) Maureen and Walter Wlodarczyk; her son (and daughter-in-law) Joseph and Suzanne Montanaro; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Arlene’s name to the hospice organization that cared for her: Grace Healthcare Services, 105 Fieldcrest Ave., Suite 402, Edison, New Jersey, 08837.

Funeral arrangements were made by Silverton Memorial Funeral Home. 2482 Church Road, Toms River. Entombment was at Ocean County Memorial Park, Toms River.

For more information, visit www.silvertonmemorial.com.