The Force was strong at the Plumsted Library in Plumsted Township on Dec. 16 when a celebration of all things “Star Wars” was held in conjunction with the opening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Michael Cassandra, 3, has fun posing as R2-D2 as his mom, Vanessa, looks on.
HOWELL — Members of the Howell K-8 School District Board of Education thanked board Vice President Chuck Welsh for his service to the panel as work for the year concluded with a meeting on Dec. 9.
Welsh was not re-elected to the board on Nov. 3. He was presented with a plaque from his fellow board members.
Board President Tim O’Brien offered remarks about Welsh and said, “I wanted to recognize the fact that many years ago, when my daughter was in middle school, Chuck was the principal. I had the opportunity to get to know him there as a parent and over the years I was very impressed.
“He was a good person to go to when I was new on the board. I received good counsel from Mr. Welsh from time to time and over the years we had a good working partnership. He has been terrific and I want to thank him for his service. I want to thank him for taking the time to be a part of this board and helping it excel,” O’Brien said.
Superintendent of Schools Joseph
Isola thanked Welsh for his service and said, “You have served this board well, my friend, and we are a better board and a better school district because of your actions. I know how sincere you are about the work and how driven you are about the concepts of meaningful education for kids. Your efforts are commended. This board has really done a fine job and you have been an integral part of that.”
During his career in education, Welsh was a teacher and a coach in the Freehold Regional High School District. He went on to become a principal in the Howell school district. Following his retirement, he was elected to serve on the Howell school board.
Welsh thanked the board and provided his final update from the Education Committee.
“Our gifted and talented kids are going to take a field trip to BizTown in Edison. They have sites throughout the country where children actually participate in a fully simulated community and the purpose is to develop a facility with things like financial literacy, how to serve in a political office and everything that is associated with running a town. The program is free with exception of transportation,” Welsh said.
“Middle school health textbooks are outdated. Even though anatomy certainly has not changed, there are certain things we face in our community today with regard to health that have changed. We are engaging with the Pearson Corporation to provide a textbook as a pilot program. The pilot program will begin in 2016 and a determination will be made after we have experience with that to see if we are going to move forward with (Pearson) as a temporary provider,” Welsh said.
He touched on several other issues, including cheerleading, now that Howell’s three middle schools have been reconfigured into two middle schools.
“There is a concern about the ratio between the number of students involved in cheerleading and the coaches. I think it is a ratio of 25 (students) to 1 (coach) now,” Welsh said, adding that the question of capping the number of cheerleaders should be examined.
There was also a discussion regarding middle school baseball and whether there should be one team consisting of students in grades six, seven and eight, or whether there should also be a team for the younger grades.
“The unfortunate thing is that many of the younger children (in middle school) end up being cut simply because they are not at the level with physical maturity that allows them to compete successfully, for the most part, with eighth-graders,” Welsh said.
Board members indicated there will be further discussion on that matter.
Finally, Welsh reported that recommendations regarding the district’s program for gifted and talented pupils may be made by the end of January.
Jacob German of New Egypt has been named to the dean’s list for the 2015 fall semester at Kutztown University, Kutztown, Pennsylvania.
Kyle T. Kutz of Howell has been named to the dean’s list for the 2015 fall semester at Kutztown University, Kutztown, Pennsylvania.
Marisa Ashley Moses of Howell has been named to the dean’s list for the 2015 fall semester at Kutztown University, Kutztown, Pennsylvania.
Global super-group One Direction returns to headline the Billboard Hollywood Party on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2016” beginning Thursday, Dec. 31, at 8 p.m. on ABC and broadcasting non-stop until 2:13 a.m.. One Direction will perform three songs throughout the show during a bi-coastal celebration. They join Carrie Underwood, who will be performing for over 1 million fans in Times Square moments before the ball drops. With over 38 performances and 5 ½ hours of music, this is America’s biggest celebration of the year.
Author Michael Pollan’s global journey to rediscover the pleasures of healthy food will be shared with us when PBS premieres “In Defense of Food” on Wednesday, Dec. 30, from 9 to 11 p.m. (check your local listings). Busting myths and misconceptions, “In Defense of Food” reveals how common sense and old-fashioned wisdom can help rediscover the pleasures of eating and at the same time reduce our risks of falling victim to diet-related diseases.
In January 2016, ABC Family will be renamed Freeform. On Tuesday, Jan. 12, the network will premiere its new series “Shadowhunters” at 9 p.m. One young woman realizes how dark the city can really be when she learns the truth about her past in the first episode. “Shadowhunters” is based on the bestselling young adult fantasy book series “The Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Clare, and follows Clary Fray, who comes from a long line of Shadowhunters — humanangel hybrids who hunt down demons.
Dateline NBC correspondent Keith Morrison joins Investigation Discovery as new host of “Dateline on ID,” beginning January 2016, along with “Front Page” specials throughout next year.
In Lifetime’s holiday original movie Becoming Santa, Holly (Laura Bell Bundy) brings her boyfriend (Jesse Hutch) to meet her family and reveals that not only are her parents Santa and Mrs. Claus, but also whoever she marries will become the next Santa.
There’s no one better to play the quintessential holiday couple than Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross, who played TV’s perfect parents on Family Ties. Baxter offers a little secret about portraying Mrs. Claus. “She may be iconic, but no one knows what she really looks like!” The actress figures, “Whoever we say she is — that’s who she is!”
The actress reveals that she enjoys working on holiday films because of the strong family storylines, but the flick’s biggest draw was the opportunity to work with her good friend.
“As soon as I knew he was attached, I didn’t even bother reading the script,” she jokes.
“The interesting thing about this particular script,” muses Baxter, “is the idea that the women of the Claus family are the ones who determine who is the next Santa.” She adds, “As light as this film is, for my character there’s an undercurrent of, ‘OK, this is serious business.’”
Baxter reveals that her favorite off-set activity was reading, while Gross spent his time with his fans.
“It was very, very hot where we were shooting and Michael was wearing a big fat suit,” she recalls with a laugh. “We had a huge fan in the green room and while we weren’t working, he would just position himself in front of it. He was this large, lumpy personage, just trying to stay cool.”
As for if she remains in touch with her other Family Ties cast members, particularly her TV children, Baxter shares: “Not on a regular basis, no. That’s why I covet those times when we can get together, which is really so sweet to see them. They’re such good people and good parents. I love that we raised good children who are good parents.”
That’s the most common question she gets from fans, too. “They want to know how’s Michael Fox. They want to know if we see each other, we talk to each other. I often hear, ‘I wish you’d been my mother.’ That’s a woman who’s strong and loving and has the time to sit down and spend time with her kids the way many parents don’t have a chance to.
“The fact that all the characters seemed to have some longevity in people’s hearts and minds is just lovely. It’s rare I think that that happens, and when it does it’s really glorious. I think people liked our family because we liked each other so much.”
Lifetime airs an encore performance of Becoming Santa on Dec. 25 at 10 p.m.
Sisters lets two women we absolutely love bring their comic genius to the screen. Maura (Amy Poehler) and Kate Ellis (Tina Fey) are tasked with the responsibility of cleaning out their room at their childhood home as their parents are moving to a condo. But in rehashing the memories made there, the two decide there is only one thing to do: throw one last party with their old friends.
As the sisters dig through memories, we realize quickly that Maura has always played it safe, while free spirit Kate has always loved to party. Neither can wrap her head around why their parents want to get rid of this house, but both can agree on throwing the party.
So the sisters do all the prep and invite many of their old friends — who in no way resemble the pictures on Facebook or who they can remember them to be. They set out to be the perfect party hosts, only this time Maura gets to be the free spirit while Kate keeps everyone together.
Amy and Tina are funny. At times they are very funny as this is a raw comedy that doesn’t make any apologies. It is a pleasure seeing these amazingly talented women work and they tend to wow viewers with their quick wit and delivery.
The supporting characters, however, are a mixed bag. Some — Ike Barinholtz and John Cena in a bit role — made me laugh and enjoy the addition to the story. But roles for Bobby Moynihan and Maya Rudolph felt tired in Moynihan’s case and misguided and forced for Rudolph’s character.
The unevenness of the supporting characters does NOT take away from the fact that Amy and Tina — yes, I can just use their first names — are the real stars here. Together they are a breath of fresh air on the comic landscape with everything they do. These two sisters prove you can go home again — just be careful if you plan to throw a party there.
Stars: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ike Barinholtz
Director: Jason Moore
The Big Short
Stars: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling
Director: Adam McKay
Adam McKay’s peek into the credit and housing bubble collapse shows an industry full of corruption, extravagance and the willingness to pull the wool over the eyes of the American public. A startling discovery by a number of seemingly ordinary individuals sets them up financially as they short the banks during the booming housing market of 2005.
Among the many joys of the holiday season are the classic, beloved songs that have been passed down from one generation to the next, bringing together listeners young and old. Among the most notable and nostalgia-provoking is the delightfully ubiquitous “The Christmas Song,” subtitled “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe (and the baritone voice of Nat King Cole) help to make the season bright.
Nathaniel Adams Coles was born on March 17, 1919. The son of a Baptist minister and a church organist, he was immersed in a musical lifestyle at a young age. By the age of 4, he was performing for his father’s congregation, and by age 12 he had begun classical piano lessons.
Although Nathaniel was born in Montgomery, Ala., he grew up in Chicago, where he was influenced by such club performers as Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines. In his mid-teens, driven to pursue a career in music, he dropped out of school to play full time.
He landed a gig with the nationally touring revue “Shuffle Along,” but faced a standstill in Long Beach, Calif., when the act floundered abruptly. In Long Beach, he formed the King Cole Trio (by that time, he’d adopted the nickname “Nat King Cole”), a jazz group that toured extensively throughout the late ’30s and early ’40s. In 1943, the trio signed with Capitol Records, with whom they released the breakout hits “That Ain’t Right” and “Straighten Up and Fly Right.”
In 1946, they recorded the now-classic tune “The Christmas Song.” Cole later recorded three alternate versions; the fourth, recorded in 1961, is the most famous and the one still played on the radio today.
Cole’s other popular hits included “Mona Lisa” (1950), “Unforgettable” (1951), “Love Is the Thing” (1957) and “L-O-V-E” (1965). During his wildly successful career, he also hosted NBC’s “The Nat King Cole Show” (the first African- American-hosted variety show), and appeared in numerous short films and sitcoms.
Cole married twice and raised five children, among them Grammy-winning artist Natalie Cole. He passed away in 1965 due to lung cancer, with wife Maria by his side. In 1990, he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award, and in 2000 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
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.
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.
Stars: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning,
Director: Brian Helgeland
New Jersey’s soil conservation districts are now accepting entries in a poster contest designed to raise awareness of natural resources and related issues among young people. The theme for this year’s poster is “We All Need Trees,” according to a press release.
Students may compete in the following categories: Grades 2-3, Grades 4-6, Grades 7-9 and Grades 10-12. The winner in each category will receive $200. The secondplace finisher in each category will receive $100 and the third-place finisher in each category will receive $50.
The winners will be entered in the National Association of Conservation Districts poster contest.
The competition is sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, New Jersey Association of Conservation Districts and the state’s 15 soil conservation districts, which work to conserve and manage soil and water resources in the state, according to the press release.
To find the local soil conservation district, go to the website www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/anr/nrc/conservdistricts. html. All entries must be submitted through the local district.
For more information and the entry form, visit the website www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/anr/pdf/conservationpostercontest. pdf