Thursday, 28 January 2021

Arts & Life

The CBS Television network has long been considered the geriatric channel for entertainment and news. That image is a tough one to shed, even if Dan Rather has been dispatched to a cable network unknown to the mass culture and Bob Barker, closing in on his centenarian birthday, gave up his hosting job on “The Price is Right.”


Not so long ago, CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler told a gathering of TV critics that her network “really looked for projects that were different, that were a little bit daring.” This, of course, explains the choice of Drew Carey to take over Bob Barker’s duties, considering that he’s about a half-century younger.


The idea for something daring at the Eye network is the eclectic mix of shows featuring vampires, geeks, unaccompanied minors, and Cuban-American rum and sugar cane moguls.


To no one’s surprise, another installment of “Survivor” arrives in late September. “Survivor: China” features a group of 16 Americans who will begin the series amid the bustle of downtown Shanghai before moving to a mountain retreat for a Buddhist ceremony where they will be instructed to leave all their worldly possessions behind. Then they will be placed in a factory as product testers to see if anyone survives. Now that would be a “reality” program, but I just made it up.


“Survivor: China” puts the willing participants on two separate islands on Zhein Lake. Divided into two tribes, the castaways are marooned with only the clothes on their backs and a copy of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” for tribe motivation and assistance throughout the game.


Once again, each tribe is afforded the opportunity to obtain a Hidden Immunity Idol. The oldest person in the group is a Virginia chicken farmer, while the youngest is a student and athlete from Chicago. Among the contestants are a grave digger and a surfing instructor, but I would choose the hiking guide to be in my tribe, unless of course there’s a need to bury some bodies.


In their infinite wisdom, the network honchos decided that kids as young as 8 years old could make for good reality TV in their own “Survivor” game. The result is “Kid Nation,” which looks like it could easily spin into the dangerous territory of “Lord of the Flies” anarchy. There’s already been controversy about this program in terms of evasion of child labor laws in New Mexico, where the town of Bonanza City is promoted as a ghost town.


The premise of “Kid Nation” is that 40 kids will have 40 days to build a new world. With ages ranging from 8 to 15, these kids will spend more than a month without their parents or modern comforts, cooking their own meals, running a saloon that serves root beer and creating a local government. This show seems to have “problematic” written all over it. All I know is that I have trouble getting my own kids to just take out the trash, so how will “Kid Nation” function without some tremendous meltdown?


Catching up to modern times, a new dramatic series could be labeled the Hispanic “Dynasty,” given the rivalries and power struggles for a large Cuban-American family running a successful South Florida rum and sugar business in “Cane.”


The family patriarch Pancho (Hector Elizondo) is trying to decide whether to cash out of the sugar business, a position supported by his impulsive natural son Frank (Nestor Carbonell). Meanwhile, adopted son Alex (Jimmy Smits) sees value in holding onto the sugar fields.


Frank’s focus is on chasing women, while Alex is deeply in love with his beautiful wife Isabel (Paola Turbay) and they have three children determined to forge their own paths outside the family. Alex and Frank have a younger sibling (Eddie Matos) who prefers to stand in the sidelines while his brothers wrestle for control of the empire.


Australian actor Alex O’Loughlin plays a vampire in the new drama “Moonlight,” in the role of Mick St. John, an immortal private investigator from Los Angeles who defies the traditional blood-sucking norms of his vampire tendencies by using his wit and powerful supernatural abilities to help the living.


Yes, he’s charismatic and handsome, and for some reason he doesn’t view humans as his personal blood bank. After saving a young girl’s life years ago, he wants to be a better vampire. I am wondering when he will turn up as a guest on Oprah Winfrey’s show, discussing his conflicted feelings, especially after he develops a bond with Beth Turner (Sophia Myles), a beautiful, ambitious Internet investigative reporter. Falling in love and fighting his adversaries among the undead are daunting tasks for this gallant vampire.


Based on the hit BBC show “Viva Blackpool,” the new Americanized drama “Viva Laughlin” is a mystery drama with music about an eternal optimist and freewheeling businessman whose sole ambition is to run a casino in Laughlin, Nev.


Fittingly, the gambling entrepreneur Ripley Holden is played by British actor Lloyd Owen. Ripley is the ultimate gambler with an infectious personality who is on the brink of success just as soon as he opens his casino that’s nowhere near completion.


When his financing falls through, he turns to his enemy, the dashing, sarcastic, wealthy casino owner Nicky Fontana (Hugh Jackman, in a recurring role) for help. On top of money woes, Ripley becomes embroiled in a murder investigation after the body of his ex-partner is found at his club. Adversity doesn’t slow down Ripley, who is caught up in the intoxicating glow of Laughlin.


Though CBS appears to be running the table with drama shows, there is at least one new comedy on the schedule, which appropriate enough leads into “Two and a Half Men” on Tuesday nights.


Don’t mistake “The Big Bang Theory” for a boring physics lesson, even though the primary players are geeks who are brilliant physicists, the kind who unwind after a hard day by playing Klingon Boggle.


Roommates sharing an apartment, Leonard and Sheldon (Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons, respectively) are the scientists who understand how the universe works, but are naturally clueless when it comes to interacting with average people.


Life begins to change when a free-spirited beauty named Penny (Kaley Cuoco) moves in next door. What else do you need to know about this show? I think we can see what’s coming.



Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


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LAKEPORT – The first in a series of Musical Breaks scheduled for Café Victoria on Main and Third Street in Lakeport got off to good start with Phil Mathewson & Friends putting on a variety show on Aug. 18.


This group of friends featured Clay Adams on guitar, dobro and harmonica, Jim Waters on keyboard and Zane Lorne on keyboard and harmonica. Also performing were "Karaoke Sue" Ricci without her karaoke machine and Lorna Sue Sides, local poet and founder of the "Poetry & Music Interlude" which is coming on the last Sunday of August to Café Victoria.


Mathewson performed his own Lake County songs including "Lake County, CA" and "Lakeport Polka" plus other originals: "Avocados," "Whirlwind" and "Gotta Get Used to It."


Clay Adams sang bluegrass songs including "Highway 61," "Blackwater," "Wreck of Old 97" and "I Pity the Poor Immigrant," a Bob Dylan tune, while playing one of his guitars and his harmonica. He also did a bluesy tune by Robert Johnson on his harmonica called "Come into My Kitchen."


Zane Lorne, also of karaoke fame, dusted off her portable keyboard to play "A Love Affair to Remember" from that famous old movie and her jazzed up version of "You Turned the Tables on Me."


She also played her brand new birthday harmonica, which she has only been playing for a week, along with the recorded music of "I Did It My Way."


Jim Waters, an accomplished jazz keyboard player, put the resident piano at the café to good use with "Cast Your Cares to the Wind" and the "Swinging Shepard Blues." He also did some Steely Dan and Boss Skaggs tunes.


These acts were interspersed with Lorna Sue Sides' original poetry. When she did "Modesto in July" you could feel the steamy heat that is associated with the valley. "I'll Take My Summer Evenings Unconventional" also had a lot of imagery. In keeping with all the jazzy music of the day she finished up with "Swinging" which had a great jazzy beat.


Since Zane has just celebrated a birthday (we won't say which one), Sue Ricci sang the only song she knows without her karaoke machine, "Happy Birthday." The café provided a muffin, candle and a birthday hat for the occasion.


Mathewson finished up the session with a farewell song, “We Are on Our Way Back Home" while Zane Lorne did a encore on her harmonica of " I Did It My Way."


Thanks to all the friends who came to the event and thanks to Café Victoria for making this venue available for local talent.


Phil & Friends will be appearing next at "Art in the Park" on Sept. 1 in the gazebo in Library Park.


Next week's Cafe Victoria show is the Ritchie Roberts Band featuring Little Deer. You don't want to miss this one on Saturday, Aug. 25 from 4 to 6 p.m. Call 263-1210 to get on Victoria's entertainment calendar and do come by and listen to great local music. These events are free and since the free concerts in the park are over for the year you can still enjoy good music nearby that fits everybody's budget.

 

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THE INVASION (Rated PG-13)


As a film critic, I find it helpful to enjoy as many cinematic genres as possible. The attraction of horror and science fiction often eludes me, and films of this type rank near the bottom of my interest, though they are still more appealing than anything starring Barbra Streisand or Ben Affleck.


One of the well-recognized great science fiction films is “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” released in 1956, one year after publication of Jack Finney’s classic “The Body Snatchers,” the novel which launched a franchise of several movies on the same theme.


The latest version is simply named “The Invasion,” and it may or may not prove of interest to audiences who have enjoyed the earlier films.


For reasons alluded to above, this review of “The Invasion” avoids comparative analysis to any of its predecessors. Then again, looking to the past is unnecessary. After all, why shouldn’t a film stand on its own merits?


Well, that may not be entirely helpful to “The Invasion,” a science fiction thriller that heavily mixes in other elements, including action befitting a “Die Hard” film and horror that belongs in a film geared to more visceral thrills than psychological drama. The film is at its best when the mysterious alien invasion strikes a creepy note of psychological paralysis, as more people succumb to an epidemic of soul-snatching transformation.


“The Invasion” begins when a space shuttle explodes upon descent, scattering pieces across rural Virginia. While authorities seize quick control of the situation, stories emerge about a strange substance found clinging to the wreckage – something that withstood the extreme cold of space and searing heat of reentry.


Those exposed to the substance are quickly transformed, and one of the first officials on the scene is Tucker Kaufman (Jeremy Northam) from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. His estranged wife is Washington, DC psychiatrist Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman), who begins to notice even more bizarre behavior in some of her patients, particularly the frightened Wendy Lenk (Veronica Cartwright).


As government officials declare that a new form of flu is gripping the nation, Carol is disturbed that many strange things are happening, such as more people on the streets acting like zombies and Oliver coming home with Halloween candy that contains a very strange substance. She’s even more apprehensive about her estranged husband’s sudden desire to exercise his rarely used visitation rights with their young son Oliver (Jackson Bond).


Confiding to best friend and fellow doctor Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig) that something is wrong, she finds it hard to accept reassurances that everything is OK. Soon enough, her suspicions are confirmed by another colleague, Dr. Stephen Galeano (Jeffrey Wright), who is working with other scientists in an underground effort to find a cure to the insidious alien substance.


Meanwhile, humans are being transformed rapidly by the alien invasion into pacified zombies who wander aimlessly and quietly like automatons. The disease is transmitted easily by a sneeze or other bodily discharges. The only way to fight the infection is to stay awake, because apparently it only takes hold when a person succumbs to REM sleep.


Carol gets infected and has to go on a desperate chase to find Oliver, who conveniently enough suffered some sort of childhood malady that now makes him immune to the alien contagion. Of course, this is where the film veers off into the action territory, with Carol driving in a high speed chase with the type of skill that you would expect from Matt Damon in one of his “Bourne” movies.


Much of the screen time is consumed by Carol searching for her missing son, with some tender moments spent with Ben in a relationship that could soon move beyond the platonic stage.


Through most of the film, Nicole Kidman, looking particularly radiant and beautiful, keeps herself together well enough to look like she could be shooting a fashion spread in a women’s magazine. Befitting the requirements of the storyline, Kidman is appropriately down and dirty when necessary. Nevertheless, there’s a nagging feeling that the actress is out of place in this misguided adventure.


Far from being a lost cause, “The Invasion” is at its best when exploring the psychological dimensions of rampant paranoia. The best scenes involve attempts to fool the authorities during routine encounters. To update the action to the present, “The Invasion” tosses in random newscast references to political hotspots around the world, suggesting the alien transformation’s effect indeed has a global reach.


Tim Riley reviews films for Lake County News.


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For its fall schedule, the FOX network is going for a heavy slate of new dramas. Coincidentally, this seems merely symbolic for the manner in which top executive Kevin Reilly, new president of FOX Entertainment, came on board to his post.


Not long ago he left a similar position at NBC, where his departure was written up in the usual euphemisms, such as “I want to spend more time with my family” or “This is a chance to explore other opportunities.” Well, opportunity came knocking quickly when he was hired by FOX.


Speaking to a gathering of TV critics, Reilly appeared ecstatic for his new assignment, calling FOX “a restless company” where you never “rest on your laurels,” because the network is “entrepreneurial.”


It’s too early to tell what kind of mark Reilly will leave on the network, but his track record speaks well for the future. Meanwhile, let’s hope he likes drama shows, because the network is loaded with new ones.


But first, we should look at the lone new comedy series, considering that it looks like a real winner.


A great cast with seasoned comedy veterans should make “Back to You” an obvious choice for the fall. Kelsey Grammer stars as egotistical TV anchorman Chuck Darling, returning to his former Pittsburgh station after a fall from grace.


A self-centered womanizer, Chuck thought he could make the big time when he left Steeltown. After an embarrassing on-air tirade causes his career to tank, Chuck returns to his old station, where he is reunited with his newscast partner Kelly Carr (Patricia Heaton).


Another familiar face is Fred Willard as Marsh McGinley, the affable, endlessly inappropriate sports anchor. What’s a newsroom without a perky, sexy, somewhat inept weather anchor? That role is filled by Ayda Field as Montana Diaz Herrera.


Two years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans remains a city battling an upsurge of crime and violence while the police force is understaffed. Truth be told, the Crescent City had these problems even before the natural disaster. Still, it is very topical that a police drama is set and filmed in New Orleans.


“K-Ville” stars Anthony Anderson as Marlin Boulet, a brash, wry, in-your-face veteran of the NOPD’s Felony Action Squad, the specialized unit that targets the most wanted criminals. Boulet’s new partner, Trevor Cobb (Cole Hauser), was a soldier in Afghanistan before joining the force. He’s tough and committed, but if he’s less than comfortable with Boulet’s methods, it’s because he’s harboring a dark secret. Through its hardboiled crime stories, “K-Ville” takes viewers from the Victorian mansions of the Garden District to the rubble of the Lower 9th Ward.


From the creative minds behind the series “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County” comes “Nashville,” a high-stakes drama which plays out like a documentary soap opera in the music scene of “the biggest small town in America.” The show focuses on the dreamers and dream-makers in the music industry, as well as those trying to make their mark on Nashville’s big business and high society.


“Nashville” stars a diverse and vibrant group of real-life young people trying to achieve success. Rachel Bradshaw, the daughter of legendary NFL quarterback Terry Bradshaw, pursues a dream of becoming the next great country singer. Rachel’s best friend, Sarah Gunsolus, is determined to use Nashville’s social scene to help her get connected to the music scene.


He’s not another vampire detective, but he is immortal. We speak of John Amsterdam (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a New York homicide detective unlike any other in the series “New Amsterdam.”


Back in 1642, as a Dutch solider in the colony of New Amsterdam, John stepped in front of a sword to save the life of a Native American girl during a massacre of her indigenous tribe. The girl in turn rescued Amsterdam, weaving an ancient spell that conferred immortality on him. The catch is that he won’t age until he finds his one true love. Amsterdam has found immortality to be a mixed blessing over the course of more than three centuries.


Having witnessed its entire history from a colonial outpost, John Amsterdam is the living embodiment of New York City. He’s also one of the NYPD’s best homicide detectives, sparring with his vibrant partner Eva Marquez (Zuleikha Robinson) as they solve difficult murder cases.


But when Amsterdam suffers and then recovers from what appears to be a massive heart attack while chasing a suspect, he realizes that the prophecy may have come true. His soulmate must have been nearby. Life would be less complicated if he was just another restless vampire.


An unscripted series, “Kitchen Nightmares” may as well be a drama, as it stars Gordon Ramsay, the volatile master chef of “Hell’s Kitchen,” a culinary boot camp known for slicing and dicing its contestants.


Ramsay is taking off his apron and stepping out of his own kitchen to rescue restaurant owners in crisis. Chef Ramsay hits the road, exposing restaurants that are barely staying afloat. Whether it’s due to lazy chefs, temperamental wait staff or unsanitary kitchens, the owners of these restaurants are losing business.


Each week, the chef will try to turn one uninviting, deserted eatery into the hippest, most-sought-after venue in town. With his reputation on the line, Ramsay wastes no time in getting down to business, and he will certainly remain prone to the explosive outbursts and spectacular confrontations familiar to fans of “Hell’s Kitchen.”


Not that you need any reminding, but election year is just around the corner. Of course, one of the best things to ring in a new year will be the return of “24” next January. Without the inconvenience of a full-blown campaign, FOX has already elected Tony Award-winning actress Cherry Jones to serve as President Allison Taylor for Season Seven.

 

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


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Michael John Poirier has been singing publicly since age 14. Courtesy photo.



LAKEPORT – Christian recording artist Michael John Poirier will present a concert at St. Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Lakeport at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26.

The concert is open to all ages and is a great opportunity for families to enjoy an uplifting evening together of songs and stories for the soul.

Singing publicly since the age of 14, Poirier pursued a career in pop music for several years before God's gentle nudging to return to prayer became a burning desire to put his “gut” prayers to music.

Poirier has spent the past 20 years spreading the message of God's infinite love and timeless mercy, recording 13 CDs and offering church missions and concerts.

His latest CD, Be With Us Today, was released in January 2006 and was recently honored with a Unity Award as Devotional Album of the Year.

“Michael’s natural sense of melody and his insightful, thought-provoking words shine through here, touching the heart and raising the spirit,” said Be With Us Today Project Manager Ron Rendek of World Library Publications.

A free will offering in support of Poirier’s mission will be taken in lieu of admission. CDs will be available for sale after the concert.

St. Mary Immaculate Catholic Church is located at 801 N. Main St. in Lakeport, on Clear Lake right off State Highway 29.

For more information about the concert, contact the parish office, 707-263-4401, or Linda Hedstrom, 707-263-3684.

To learn more about Michael John Poirier and his ministry, Holy Family Apostolate, visit www.holyfamilynow.com.

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Tom Rigney worked the crowd with his matchless showmanship at Friday night's concert. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 

LAKEPORT – Friday in the park: For 10 weeks straight it meant music, good company and – for many of the regulars with a sense of humor – "stupid stuff" and sponsor-donated prizes for the correct answers to the stupid stuff questions.

 

For those who may have answered those challenges incorrectly, you're gonna have to wait 42 weeks for your next question. The jumbo crowd that showed up last Friday night will pass each week much more easily with the memories of this summer's series firmly in their minds and hearts.

 

Closing out the series, and doing it with a healthy dose of style and flair, were the flamboyant Tom Rigney and his band Flambeau.


From first note to last, there was plenty of volume, plenty of Cajun-style spice and all of it served up via a violin! A smoken hot violin! Not to discount the four other talented musicians – each one with solid pro-music histories, each given more than one opportunity to show off their individual talents. But for just plain showmanship, Tom Rigney has written his own book.

 

The only band to be invited back for three consecutive years, Rigney's Flambeau played flawlewsly despite the higher-than-expected breezes and much cooler temperatures.


The music was hot enough to encourage the masses to the dance lawn in droves. Maybe it was the allure of the last chance to dance, maybe it was the band, or maybe it was the skillful planning and production skills of the crew at BiCoastal Media that brought these elements together at just the right time.

 

Stay tuned ... only 42 weeks to go until the concerts return!


E-mail Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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