Thursday, 28 January 2021

Arts & Life

EVAN ALMIGHTY (Rated PG)


Having performed divine miracles in “Bruce Almighty,” Morgan Freeman returns as God in “Evan Almighty,” and he’s got big plans for Jim Carrey’s former colleague and TV station rival from the original film.


Maybe this isn’t the standard sequel because Carrey has moved on to other things, and Steve Carell has moved up in the world with his burgeoning TV and film career as a comedic character.


You may recall that Carell, the smug, preening broadcaster targeted by Carrey’s pranks, could only speak in a torrent of babble while he was on the air. Thus, it should come as no surprise that in “Evan Almighty” Carell’s Evan Baxter is elected to Congress, where his affliction of incoherent prattle would prove fittingly convenient to his duties.


Right from the start, “Evan Almighty” flunks basic civics lessons. This may not matter to most, but the film opens with Evan Baxter campaigning for and winning election to Congress from Buffalo on a simple platform of “Change the World.” Putting aside this obviously frivolous electoral bromide, there’s the unlikely scenario of Evan being elected while apparently still serving as a newscaster.


He makes a farewell TV broadcast after his victory, before packing up his wife Joan (Lauren Graham) and three sons into an oversized Hummer that even Arnold Schwarzenegger wouldn’t be seen driving anymore. Then he arrives at the Capitol and scores a huge office that certainly would never go to a rookie. There’s more, and we’ll get into it later.


When Evan and Joan arrive in the suburban town of Huntsville, Va., they start a new life in an expansive home nestled in the pristine hills of a new subdivision. Making promises to his sons about a hiking trip that he will surely fail to keep, Evan the freshman Congressman is quickly engulfed by the political world once he arrives on the Hill.


His anxiety-ridden chief of staff Marty (John Michael Higgins) is officious as well as efficient. The wisecracking assistant Rita (Wanda Sykes) probably has the best lines, mostly when observing the peculiar behavior of her new boss. Meanwhile, the energetic intern Eugene (Jonah Hill) is hopelessly obsequious, dutifully taking every opportunity to become indispensable.


Meanwhile, Evan seems too naïve and oblivious to the congressional sharks circling around him in his first days in office. One of the House’s most powerful members, Congressman Long (John Goodman) is anxious to get Evan signed on as a junior co-sponsor of a bill that even the most casual observer will detect as failing to pass the simple “smell test.”


Later on, Congressman Long is seen threatening to suspend members of Congress, even though he and even the Speaker of the House have no such unilateral power. Particularly egregious is his ability to direct members of the local police force to confiscate private property. But hey, this is a movie, so why let a few troubling legal questions and constitutional limitations interfere with a good story?


To get back to the essential story, Morgan Freeman’s God appears to Evan and issues one simple, albeit ludicrous, command, namely to build an ark to prepare his family and friends for a mighty flood. As much as Evan would like to dismiss this request, he can’t to do much about all the animals of various shapes and sizes showing up on his wooded land and the birds who take over his Capitol office.


Being transformed into a modern day Noah, Evan’s appearance changes so that he’s longhaired and bearded, looking like the Unabomber and causing a stir at the Capitol with his increasingly odd behavior.


Whether he’s trying to be helpful or comical, God provides Evan with a copy of “Ark Building for Dummies” and trades in the business clothes for a flowing robe.


The comedy revolves around slapstick efforts by Evan not to lose his sanity while performing his dual job as congressman and the emissary of the Almighty. As his appearance changes radically, he baffles his staff desperately trying to cover up his idiosyncrasies. Meanwhile, he has plenty of difficulty convincing his wife and kids that his ark building is not a frantic midlife crisis.


Of course, another part of the comedy is the endless parade of TV news crews parked on his front lawn, scoffing at Evan’s apocalyptic claims of the oncoming flood.


No matter its flaws, “Evan Almighty” has a family friendly vibe that makes it appealing for a summer entertainment. Granted, surprises are few, but there are enough laughs to amuse even the more cynical audience members.


Steve Carell continues to burnish his image as a comedic force, and his Capitol Hill assistants, played by Wanda Sykes, Jonah Hill and John Michael Higgins, pull their weight for wonderful comic relief.


Tim Riley writes film reviews for Lake County News.


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CLEARLAKE Three animated favorites will be presented this summer in the Clearlake Nazarene Church "Kid's Summer Movie Matinee" series. Admission is free.


Opening the series, Friday, June 22, is "The Sword and the Stone" the legend of King Arthur, heralding the Kingdom Quest Vacation Bible School offered the week of June 25 to 29.


Coming Friday, Aug. 10 is "Madagascar" animals in the zoo long for the excitement of the wild.


And offered Friday, Aug. 24 is "Happy Feet" in a nation of beautiful singers a dancer is shunned until he proves there is more than one way to celebrate the music in us all.


Showtime is 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. each day. All performances include an intermission discussion, crafts and snacks. Please call for more information and to pre-register your child so we can plan ahead. The church's phone number is 994-4008.


Clearlake Nazarene Church is located at 15917 Olympic Drive in Clearlake.


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NANCY DREW (Rated PG)


But for the Warner Brothers studio putting a timeless literary teen heroine on the big screen, “Nancy Drew” is the kind of production that would more appropriately be running on the Disney Channel or the family hour of a major network.


Though made contemporary for the cinema, the Nancy Drew character emerges from a venerable franchise of books authored under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene, and in the translation to the screen this teen sleuth is realized by Emma Roberts, who fittingly enough has made her mark in the Nickelodeon hit comedy series “Unfabulous.”


For the uninitiated, it should be noted that Emma has a famous aunt by the name of Julia Roberts, and clearly this winsome teenager has inherited some charismatic genes.


Even if it has a strong TV sensibility, “Nancy Drew” has plenty to recommend itself, going beyond its obvious adolescent audience appeal. The film is righteous in its celebration of old-fashioned virtues, namely because Nancy Drew the resourceful teen detective is smart and sensible. She's the very antithesis of Paris Hilton and all the other dimwitted young celebrities who so unfortunately dominate the pop culture with their lack of grace and charm, to say nothing of the complete absence of redeeming qualities.


In what is an almost radical notion, the young amateur sleuth has a mind of her own and a passion for helping people and solving mysteries, all the while remaining true to an honorable code of conduct. Nancy will need all of her virtues when she gets uprooted from her friendly hometown of River Heights, located somewhere in “flyover country.”


After solving one more murder case that baffled local law enforcement, Nancy finds out that her lawyer dad Carson Drew (Tate Donovan) is moving them to Los Angeles for an extended stay. Since Nancy is allowed to pick their temporary residence, they settle on the decaying Draycott Mansion, rumored to be haunted because famous actress Dehlia Draycott (Laura Harring, seen in flashbacks) died there under mysterious circumstances.


Though having promised to give up her detective work and to settle into normal teen living, Nancy is unable to resist a mystery, especially since the house comes equipped with secret passageways and a strange caretaker named Mr. Leshing (Marshall Bell) who has the odd habit of materializing unexpectedly.


Nancy’s biggest challenge is fitting in with new classmates at Hollywood High School, where her unique personal style, which includes wearing retro clothing and penny loafers, sets her apart from her self-absorbed, fast-living peers.


She clashes with fashionistas Inga (Daniella Monet) and Trish (Kelly Vitz), who actually look more like streetwalkers. Excelling in all her academic work and even in an exercise for making sandcastles, Nancy comes off as a female version of Alex Keaton (another TV reference), demonstrating her smarts without fearing rebuke from her contemporaries. That she won’t bend to the will of others makes her so admirable and appealing.


The young sleuth’s tenacious behavior draws admiration from the wisecracking Corky (Josh Flitter), her unlikely new best friend. Though he is considerably younger, Corky has a crush on Nancy, which creates some amusing tension when her longtime confidant and quasi-boyfriend Ned (Max Thierot) shows up on a visit so that he can deliver Nancy’s beloved button-cute roadster, a vintage Nash Metropolitan convertible.


While concealing activities from her father, Nancy’s sleuthing activities pick up steam as she pieces together some important facts that unknown people want to keep concealed. The trail leads to struggling single mother Jane Brighton (Rachel Leigh Cook), menacing thugs who chase Nancy through Chinatown, and the high-powered Draycott estate attorney (Barry Bostwick).


One of the odd things about “Nancy Drew” is that the flashbacks to Dehlia Draycott’s salad days in the film business have the look of the bygone Hollywood of the 1930s and 1940s, and yet this was an actress who had her fame in the 1960s and 1970s before dying at a relatively young age circa 1981. Then again, Nancy herself has a personal style more suggestive of the 1950s.


Maybe the real mystery is that “Nancy Drew” is in search of its era, but that will be of little concern for the family audience that should find enjoyment and pleasure in watching a spunky teen saving the day and tidying up a whole bunch of loose ends by doing what she does best.


Tim Riley writes film reviews for Lake County News.


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It would be easy to say that Alice Waters started her now famous Chez Panisse restaurant just so she could star in her own movie. That would be to ignore her generous impulse to gather friends together for conversation over good food.


Waters fled the turmoil of Vietnam war protests at UC Berkeley in the mid-60s for a year at the Sorbonne. That's where she discovered the glories of fresh local food, and the inexpensive bistro.


She certainly didn't intend to start a food revolution, but the revolution is in full swing today, with supermarket chains trying to lure back their picky shoppers with organic and fair trade foods, and an international Slow Food movement with 80,000 members.


Thomas McNamee is best known for his writing on the environment and the natural world. He does a superb job here of placing the neighborhood restaurant in the environment.


Alice's critics, some of whom worked in the restaurant, are apt to say she's impossible to work with because of her perfectionism about the food, the décor, the flowers. Others complain her only goal is to making money, but McNamee relates the struggles her investors have had to restrain her impulse to ignore the cost, so long as she got the very best to serve the customers. At times, she's been under orders from her financial advisors (including her father) to stop writing checks to charities: She ignored it. It took many years for the restaurant to turn a profit. Alice was always a reluctant cook, who much preferred talking to customers in the dining room. It looks as if getting her out of the kitchen and onto the international stage was the key to profitability.


When she opened Chez Panisse, Alice was in a relationship with Tom Luddy, a discerning film buff who now is co-director of the Telluride Film Festival. Not surprisingly, watching movies was part of the experience in the early days of Chez Panisse, when a full dinner cost $3.75. In fact, the whole venture is based on Marcel Pagnol's Provence trilogy, Marius, Fanny and César.


Her closest relationships have always been a major part of Alice's restaurant, even when the men were gay. Jeremiah Tower's stint in the kitchen created a more formal atmosphere; Fanny, her daughter with ex-husband Stephen Singer, inspired her campaigns for improved food in school lunches, and school gardens. Some friends have created businesses based on her needs, others have created restaurants, based on improving her model.


There are a few charming recipes (like baked goat cheese with garden lettuce, an herb omelette) and lots of gossip, but it's really all about passion, and the strange paths that can create.


Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution. Thomas McNamee, Penguin Press, March, 2007.


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


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II Big rocking at the Library Park Gazebo Friday night. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 

LAKEPORT The opening night of the 19th annual Summer Concerts in the Park series played out under warm but breezy skies Friday.


The audience, estimated at 1,200 welcomed, KNTI DJ Eric Patrick as the master of the stage for the two-hour concert by the Hopland based band, II Big.

 

 

The five-member band had a bit of a slow start as wind gusts caused excessive noise across the singers' microphones. They also had problems with feedback for the first few tunes but once the bugs were worked out the band sounded great. II Big played a 80-20 split of original numbers with a few rock and roll favorites thrown in.


Their newest CD, "Face In The Glass," hits the stores next week.

 

 

Intermission was, as always, a crowd favorite as Eric Patrick awarded sponsor-donated prizes in response to requests for "Dumb Stuff" from the audience.


The second show in the 10-week series will feature Chicken and The Defenders starting a 6:30 p.m. June 22.

 

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A concert goer won a prize for having a tattoo of an American flag. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 


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I was going to write about the Quibley Brothers' "Go Weird," one of those great albums you never heard of. But, I'll write about this one instead.


You may have heard of it or, at least, of it's starting point.


Back in 1995, good ol' Atlantic Records released the stateside version of "Starways To Heaven," a product of 12 demented Australians and their groups. It contained versions of Robert Plant's freak out, "Stairways To Heaven," by the Australian Doors Project, the early and the late Beatles (Down Under chapters), the Rock Lobsters, two opera singers, Elvis (Ned Pepper) and la creme de la creme, a shout out by the venerable Rolf Harris and his digereedo or wobbleboard.


"There's an old Australian stockman ... er ... rock band ..."


I got mine at a defunct junk shop on Clear Lake's Lake Shore Drive (no, not that Lake Shore Drive) for a couple of quid and you can get yours, as it is currently out of print, on amazon.com for a measly $18. The original Aussie release, has 22 takes on "the lady who's sure ..."


Overkill? You be the judge. That one runs about $45 but could be worth it, judging from the domestic offering.


Play this at your next party.


Leonard Teale offers up the spoken word version and if you have never actually heard the words what the hell is a "spring clean for the may queen" anyway? well, you should, at least ... once.


These takes all come from the Australian TV show, "The Money Or The Gun," which featured a different reading on the "lady who's sure all that glitters is gold" at the conclusion of each broadcast.


Andrew Denton's liner notes are also not to be missed.


"Some of the rejections make a veritable Who's Who of rock 'n' roll," he writes. "Shane McGowan of the Pogues couldn't remember his name ... Peter Gabriel gave up after almost a year of trying to teach it to the hill tribes of Southern Yemen and Midnight Oil refused to sing 'Stairway' because they felt it represented US interests in the Caribbean."


Oh, and "Bruce Springsteen somehow made it longer."


But, "if you listen very hard, when all is one and one is all."


You get "a rock that doesn't roll."


"And it's whispered that soon, if we all call the tune, then the piper will lead us to reason" or maybe just to Rolf Harris tying down the May Queen ..."all together now!"


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


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Upcoming Calendar

28Jan
29Jan
01.29.2021 10:00 am - 11:30 am
Building resilience webinar
30Jan
01.30.2021 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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6Feb
02.06.2021 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
6Feb
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02.14.2021
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