Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Arts & Life

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END (Rated PG-13)


Disney is getting an amazing amount of mileage out of its popular amusement ride, now that the third installment of “Pirates of the Caribbean” is money in the bank for a huge box office hit.


There are legions of fans for Johnny Depp and the franchise that will not be put off by sniping from critics or the film’s running time of nearly three hours.


“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” may be an endurance test for some, but for others it is a badge of honor to be figuratively strapped into a theater seat for one very long and thrilling theme ride.


The Pirate culture runs amok in this film, with betrayals piled upon betrayals as the cutthroat swashbucklers battle each other and the British navy.


“Pirates 3” picks up where the second installment left off, or so it seems. The British are becoming bolder in their attempts to wipe out the pirate tribes in the treacherous Caribbean seas. Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) of the East India Trading Company has gained control of the terrifying ghost ship, the Flying Dutchman, and its malevolent, vengeful captain, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy, unrecognizable in the tentacles covering his face).


Roaming the seven seas under the command of Admiral Norrington (Jack Davenport), the Dutchman is an unstoppable force bent on destroying pirate ships without mercy.


The plot is needlessly convoluted, often so obtuse that confusion is certain to be a problem. Now, the surfeit of plot twists, piled up with endless double crosses and betrayals, may not be troublesome for most viewers, because the rogues, lovable or otherwise, capture our attention.


Let’s face it, Johnny Depp’s foppish Captain Jack Sparrow is hugely amusing and entertaining, no matter how inane the situations in which he is often placed. A real plus for this newest adventure is that Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa, full of bluster and venom, is on hand for the entire story to menace and terrorize his foes with obvious glee.


Also returning to the action are Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), two lovebirds so devoid of romantic chemistry that you can only assume pirates had no love life.


Elizabeth is much better at handling a sword in combat, a useful talent to possess when she teams up with Will and Captain Barbossa on a desperate quest to gather the Nine Lords of the Brethren Court, which is something like the United Nations for pirates.


Their hope is to defeat Beckett, the Flying Dutchman and the entire British armada, no easy task when pirates squabble more fiercely than warlords in Afghanistan. But first, they must find one of the missing pirate Lords, which happens to be Captain Jack Sparrow, currently trapped in the netherworld of Davy Jones’ Locker.


All things considered, Sparrow is in fine form when he’s rescued by an odd alliance of pirates. The mystical Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris) lends her magical powers, while the goofy pirates Pintel (Lee Arenberg) and Ragetti (Mackenzie Crook) lend their less than helpful assistance.


The shaky alliance of pirates first travels to dangerous, exotic Singapore and confronts Chinese pirate Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat, the major new player) to gain charts, and a ship that will take them literally to the world’s end to rescue Sparrow.


The gathering of the Pirate Lords comes close to being a prison riot, but they decide to unite against a common foe. This is a good thing in so far as it allows nearly the last hour of the film to be consumed with every special effect of battle scenes that could be cast upon troubled waters.


Entire fleets engage in ship-to-ship battles, with cannons blasting and ripping through all hands on deck. Pirates swing from rigging in spectacular sword fights with their enemies. Storms at sea are impressively staged to render edge-of-the-seat thrills, particularly when swirling waters create the watery equivalent of a black hole.


“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” doesn’t stint on the dazzling special effects, but all this breathtaking wonder does seem to come up a bit short in the face of too numerous plot twists that threaten to sink the whole enterprise.


There’s a bonus scene at the very end of the credits, and if you are willing to stick around, it is worth the wait, particularly for the most devoted followers of this Pirate world. Oh, it should not be overlooked that Keith Richards, the gaunt member of the Rolling Stones, is perfectly cast in the cameo role of Captain Teague, mentor to Jack Sparrow.


Tim Riley reviews films for Lake County News.


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Cindy Carr, co-producter, holds the Nunsense teddy bear, complete with a custom nun's habit, which is being raffled off. Photo by Joanne Bateni.


 

What do a convent full of singing and dancing nuns, poison vichyssoise and Publisher’s Clearing House have in common?


You will have to go see Nunsense, the latest Lakeport Community Players and Lake County Repertory Theater joint production, to find out.


I attended the production's opening night and found it to be fast-paced with lots of laughs. The cast came through the audience thanking everyone for coming at the beginning and at the end of the play, which was a nice touch.


Kathleen Escude was the perfect Reverend Mother, stern yet funny. There were strong performances by Becky Martin, as Sister Mary Amnesia, who couldn’t remember anything, including her real name, and Suna Flores as Sister Mary Hubert, who had her eye on Reverend Mother’s job. Cathy O’Connell was great as the understudy, Sister Robert Anne, who finally gets her big break.


There were plenty of songs and jokes about religion, food and pop culture combined with audience participation. A special guest performance was the highlight of the second act with a solo vocalist accompanied by a guitar player.


Do catch this play with music and lyrics by Dan Goggin. They've just finished their run at the Kelseyville Presbyterian Church; in June they will move to the Weaver Auditorium at the Lower Lake Schoolhouse Museum. Performances will be June 1-3 and June 8-10. There are evening and matinee performances.


Be sure to buy a raffle ticket for the Nunsense teddy bear to add to your collection. You know you can’t resist a cute teddy bear.


Show tickets are available at Catfish Books, telephone 263-4454.


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The Supremes ruined me for late night television.


I was a proofreader for seven years and, when you're a proofreader, the first thing you see in those "Greatest Hits" ads is the spelling errors, be they on Supremes or Slim Whitman songs.


It's not "S_op In The Name of Love;" it's "Stop In The Name of Love."


But the Supremes and Motown in general provided a lot of the background music for our lives.


My first ex-wife a biker chick with big hair (I was a hippie and opposites do attract) turned me on to the Supremes, Motown and a lot of wonderful things a farmboy needs to know. I turned her on to Bob Dylan.


So it wasn't much of a stretch to trot on out to Medium Rare Records in the Castro on Dec. 3 and meet Mary Wilson, the other surviving Supreme.


Florence Ballard died penniless a few years back and Steve Forbert wrote the hauntingly beautiful "Romeo's Tune" for her. How could a Supreme die penniless? Where was all that money, Barry Gordie, or that other Supreme, the one with the big ego ... what was her name now?


Tons of pop stars lost their songs, recordings, even the use of their names to corrupt managers, record companies and other scavengers. It's an old story.


But the knockout gorgeous woman in a black dress and at least diamond looking broach wasn't showing it.


When that other Supreme, the one who thinks the threesome was a solo act, reformed the so-called Supremes a few years back, she wouldn't let Mary Wilson participate.


That didn't stop Mary from touring Europe and the world and now, finally, debuting her one woman show, "Mary Wilson: Up Close," at San Francisco's Empire Plush Room. Billing herself as the "Supreme Diva," Wilson met her many fans a long, long line of them head on, face to face. She was spontaneous and open, posing for photos, giving kisses, laughing, carrying on intelligent and personable conversations.


It's hard to fake this sort of thing and she didn't.


"The line for Mary Wilson begins here," the sign in the window said and it snaked on down Market Street, growing on one end as it moved on another.


People brought records, CDs, T-shirts, the sheet music for "I Hear A Symphony," and DVD's - including copies of her new "Mary Wilson of the Supremes" to be signed.


My out-of-print copy of "The Supremes Sing Country & Western Music" is in storage, or I would have brought it.


She even taped a promo for a local TV show in only three takes, never missing a beat.


A real pro.


"Would you guys go back in line and go around again to make the line longer," she joked at one point. But, then it grew again, on its own, bringing even old friends like Dick Eckert, her dresser for 10 years, who bought some old costumes.


Not to neglect one a lady who joined it as she was passing by.


"I love your songs and I was just walking by and wanted to thank you for the music and shake your hand," the woman said.


Finally, at a lull in the line, Mary gave me an interview.


I thanked her too for the music and for Motown, the great equalizer amongst generations. I found as a teacher that the music of Hitsville spoke to succeeding generations, parents passing it on to kids allowing teachers to use that common denominator to open lines of communication otherwise closed.


The "ex-" gang members and fourth, fifth and sixth graders I taught even knew who Edwin Starr was and that there were three women in that group on Soul Train and Shindig.


And, here I was, standing next to one.


Then, I popped the question: "Was Mary Wilson ever homeless?"


"No," she said, "but only just barely. I tell people my mother was illiterate, so my family was poor. We didn't watch TV or read newspapers. Without government assistance, we could have been ... Everyone's just a paycheck away."


Afterwards, I thought about her for days. Up on the screen with the other two. Just like Spike Lee's brothers and sisters watched "The Partridge Family" like the rest of America in "Crooklyn," that wise and gentle film, farmboys and city girls met over Motown, the great equalizer.


And, as I felt compelled to walk up to person after person and announce I'd met Mary Wilson yesterday, I could swear I heard a symphony.


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


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MENDOCINO -- The 2007 Mendocino Arts Summer Showcase will feature nine major events June through September. Details at MendocinoArts.Org.


"We're offering cool music, cool gardens, cool art and above all when it's sweltering inland cool breezes," said event coordinator Penny Greenwood.


– The Mendocino Music Festival holds its "Taste of Chocolate, Wine, and Ale" fundraiser June 16.


– Five "glorious gardens" from Fort Bragg to Albion will be featured in the Mendocino Art Center's 15th Annual Mendocino Coast Garden Tour, Saturday, June 23.


The 21st Mendocino Music Festival (July 10-21) presents extraordinarily eclectic music in Mendocino Headlands State Park. Concerts feature the Festival Orchestra, Big Band, chamber music, opera, dance, blues, jazz, folk music, a piano series and much more.


– The 36th Annual Mendocino Rotary Art Auction will offer 60 art pieces, including fine art, sculpture and photography by nationally recognized Mendocino Coast artists in support of local youth and community organizations. The Art Auction & Preview is July 14.


– The Mendocino Art Center's 48th Annual Summer Arts & Crafts Fair, featuring 65 local and regional artists displaying an exciting mixture of unique hand made artwork, July 14 and 15. Also food and live music.


– The Mendocino Art Center's All-Media Instructor Silent Art Auction will showcase an eclectic blend of one-of-a-kind artwork created by over 50 of the Mendocino Art Center's illustrious artist-instructors, beginning July 3, and culminating with a festive party, Aug. 4.


– On Saturday, Aug. 11, Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens will host its 16th Annual Art in the Gardens fundraiser, said by many to be "the best garden party on the coast. Sixty local artists, more than a dozen of the finest Mendocino County wineries, the finest local food and musicians all come together in this annual event.


The Gloriana Opera Company presents Cole Porter's Anything Goes Aug. 24 through Oct. 7.


In September, the Summers Arts Showcase is all about wine:


– Winesong! Mendocino's premier wine and art auction takes place Sept. 8. Each year over 40 acclaimed artists donate works of art to be auctioned to benefit the Mendocino Coast District Hospital. These donated pieces along with over 100 more will be showcased Aug. 18 through Sept. 9.


For more information visit http://mendocinoarts.org/.


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SHREK THE THIRD (Rated PG)


A spate of sequels is already gripping the summer box office, and by the calendar, it’s not even summertime yet. Moreover, all these blockbuster sequels are the third installments of now well-established adventures. The next “Pirates of the Caribbean” is sailing into the multiplex in a week. Arriving in early June, “Ocean’s Thirteen” requires a bit of math to tell you it’s the third installment, and we can only hope it’s better than “Twelve.”


What this week holds for us is another chapter in the “Shrek” saga, which returns everybody’s favorite ogre for some familiar hijinks and comical adventures.


That’s the essential problem for “Shrek the Third” familiarity with the primary characters is so pervasive that expectations run high. As a result, the static comic situations start to wear thin, even if laughs are to be had from not quite original material.


To be sure, Mike Myers brings a great voice and wonderful comic sensibility to the big, lovable green ogre, though the story has little desire or ability to bring something fresh to the scene.


Shrek and his faithful sidekick Donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy) can only do so much that’s the least bit inventive. Fortunately, the deliciously wicked swashbuckler Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), possessing a rapier wit, delivers the best one-liners, and though he makes a great verbal sparring partner, you can only wistfully hope for more scenes between Puss and Donkey.


Comfortably settled into domesticity with Fiona (Cameron Diaz), Shrek is much less at ease filling in on royal duties in Far, Far Away for his father-in-law King Harold (John Cleese), who is about to croak and leave the kingdom to the ogre.


Shrek can hardly perform menial ceremonial duties without creating havoc. He’s eager to relinquish the crown as soon as a suitable replacement is found. And so Shrek, joined by Donkey and Puss, set out on a quest to find an heir to the throne, and the search ends up at a medieval boarding school where the student body resembles Valley kids hanging out at the mall.


Here, at the Worcestershire Academy, they locate Fiona’s long-lost cousin Artie (Justin Timberlake), a dweeb who doesn’t fit in at the elite school.


The outcast student is dubious about his royal future, but he finds Shrek persuasive, and besides, anything to get out of this boarding school has to be minimally appealing.


Meanwhile, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) is suffering the indignity of a failed career at dinner theater, and after drowning his sorrows in a tavern full of fairy tale villains, he assembles a band of thugs, including Captain Hook and Cyclops, to swoop down on the kingdom and stage a coup. With the ogre and his pals away, Charming takes over as easily as the Germans overran France in World War II.


Assisted by the Queen (Julie Andrews), Fiona organizes the fairy tale maidens such as Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty into the Far, Far Away equivalent of the French Resistance. They put up a good fight until Shrek and his furry pals return with the future King Arthur for a showdown with the narcissistic Prince Charming and his army of hired goons.


Since this is all fairy tale stuff, there’s little surprise in store for anyone above the kindergarten level.


Oh, I almost forgot, there’s another major plot twist, involving the looming fatherhood for Shrek and his absolutely primal fear that a bunch of little ogres running around may be too much to bear.


“Shrek the Third” so faithfully sticks to its formula that few surprises are in store, except perhaps for the very rare audience member unaware of the previous two films. Notwithstanding the recognizable terrain, “Shrek the Third” still manages to deliver a bunch of laughs. But what the story lacks in originality, the film makes up for that shortcoming with brilliantly realized animation.


Now, if only we could get a greatly expanded role for Puss in Boots. Maybe that’s our wish for a fourth “Shrek.”


Tim Riley writes film reviews for Lake County News.


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Local author George Dorner will be a guest of the Writers Studio on May 25. Courtesy photo.

 


LAKEPORT Back when he was a spy, he drank cocktails with a king. Now he will be the guest at Watershed Books' Writers Studio on Friday, May 25, beginning at 3:30 p.m.


George J. Dorner's book, "In the Black" is a novelization of his experiences in covert operations during the Vietnam War.


During his extended tenure in the clandestine war in Laos, he did a lot more than quaff cocktails. He was the U. S. Air Force's sole intelligence source for the northern third of Laos.


The Air Operations Center he belonged to ran the only effective military force opposing the North Vietnamese invasion of northern Laos. The pilots Dorner worked with performed heroic deeds as daily routine, and were the inspiration for his book.


He will read from "In the Black" upon request, and sign copies for purchasers. He also will preview his sequel, "In the Light," a tale of his characters' readjustment to civilian life.


For those interested, he will discuss the writing process. He was an adjunct instructor in writing at Mendocino College.


For further information, drop by Watershed Books at 305 N. Main St., Lakeport, just north of the Lake County Museum, or call Cheri Holden at Watershed Books, 263-5787.


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Upcoming Calendar

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