Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Arts & Life

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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SPIDER-MAN 3 (Rated PG-13)


Three years is a long time to be left hanging on the adventures of Spider-Man. But the wait for “Spider-Man 3” was well worth it, considering that the filmmakers have spent what approximates the GNP of several Third World countries to deliver a crowd-pleasing bonanza of dazzling special effects.


State-of-the-art technology enhances the visual appeal of this blockbuster to the extent that the effects alone are worth the price of admission, even more so if you get the chance to see the film on an IMAX screen.


Most important of all, “Spider-Man 3,” at least to this untrained eye, adheres to the sensibilities of its comic book origins.


No matter how old he gets, Tobey Maguire still looks like a high school geek in his civilian role of newspaper photographer Peter Parker.


His goofy charm is rooted in his basic innocence, making him the almost perfect boyfriend for equally naïve Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), who is now becoming a little more unsettled about Spider-Man’s growing popularity with an adoring public.


Actually, she becomes more resentful of Peter Parker’s alter ego when her own bid for public acclaim falls flat in a failed attempt to star in a Broadway musical. It’s not all razzle-dazzle pyrotechnics and protracted battle scenes for “Spider-Man 3” as tension rises between Peter/Spider-Man and Mary Jane.


More tension develops as James Franco’s Harry Osborn grows increasingly bitter about how Spider-Man killed his father, the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe). This is a tough matter because Harry, Peter and Mary Jane are all childhood friends, and now they are being torn apart.


Peter’s greatest challenge, however, is the looming battle with himself. When the film opens, things are going so well for Peter that he’s on the verge of proposing to Mary Jane. As the lovebirds go for a ride, a black substance clings to Peter’s scooter, and later it attaches itself to his Spider-Man suit, turning it from the familiar red and blue to a menacing deep black.


The black suit transforms Peter so that he becomes stronger and quicker, but it also brings out the dark side of his personality.


Peter acquires the false confidence of a gigolo, and starts swaggering around town in a flashy new suit, adopting the persona of a hipster. He even becomes a bit enamored with pretty blonde classmate Gwen Stacey (Bryce Dallas Howard) that Spider-Man rescues from a freakish industrial accident, and moreover she’s the daughter of a police captain (James Cromwell) eager to bestow an award to the hero in a very public ceremony.


Peter’s prideful behavior makes him more vulnerable on the one hand, but also causes friction at work with rival photographer Eddie Brock (Topher Grace). At least, J.J. Jameson (J.K. Simmons) still delivers the comic goods as the gruff, acerbic boss at the Daily Bugle.


While there are numerous personal dramas being played out, “Spider-Man 3” is ever mindful of delivering incredible action sequences that seek to outdo each previous scene in ever increasing intensity and scale.


To that end, Spider-Man has to take on two classic villains.


First, there’s the doltish criminal Flint Marko (Thomas Hayden Church) who becomes Sandman when he stumbles into a radioactive test site where they’re performing a molecular fusion experiment and his DNA is accidentally fused with a large pit of sand. He becomes a menacing, malevolent force capable of changing shape and size with ease.


At first, Sandman continues his life of petty crimes until he realizes his full potential as a threat to Spider-Man’s existence.


Spider-Man’s true arch-nemesis is Venom (Topher Grace), a villain created from the same mysterious black substance that once attached itself to Spider-Man’s red and blue suit.


With a background similar to Peter’s, Eddie Brock’s transformation into Venom creates a bad guy with the same powers and abilities as the hero. Since Eddie was jealous of Peter, it’s rather fun to have this showdown between the alter egos of Venom and Spider-Man.


Aside from the villains being interesting, what makes “Spider-Man 3” work best is the solid spectacle of great actions scenes that crackle with eye-popping zeal. The terrific effects help to gloss over some of the film’s clunky parts.


While “Spider-Man 3” is burdened with a few too many sub-plots, this fun film still weaves a magical web of spectacular action.


Tim Riley writes film reviews for Lake County News.


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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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LAKEPORT – On Friday, May 11, Watershed Books will present the second Writer's Studio of the season, hosting local author, Sue Lehman.


Lehman's current mystery novel, Blind Sided, is intriguing for its appeal to both mystery buffs and dog lovers. It's a light-hearted tale set in Clearlake and Lower Lake, and Calistoga.


Her second mystery, The Rat, is due for release in the fall.


The gathering will begin at 3:30 p.m. Friday.


Lehman will be reading from Blind Sided and other works, talking about aspects of her writing process, and signing copies of Blind Sided.


Lehman grew up in Albion, Mich. After high school, she moved to Naperville, Ill., where she received degrees in music and theater.


During the late 1970s, she learned piano tuning and rebuilding and moved to California.


In the early 1980s, she followed her future husband to Montana, and began writing for children. Her work has appeared in Clubhouse, Highlights and Good Ole Days magazines.


Lehman lives in Lower Lake with her husband and two sons, and is the owner of Allegro Piano Service. In her spare time, she enjoys tennis, judo, baseball and sailing.


Watershed Books is located at 305 N. Main St., Lakeport. For more information, call 263-5787.


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UKIAH A variety of writers’ workshops are being offered as part of Mendocino LitFest on Saturday, June 2 at Mendocino College.


Lake County’s Hal Zina Bennett, author of more than 30 books, presents “The Four Portals of Creativity: Unleashing the Power of Your Own Voice.” Bennett shares ideas about accessing the hidden powers of life experiences to create more powerful characters, themes and story lines.


Mendocino College professor and novelist Jody Gehrman teams up with Morgan Hill freelancer Jordan Rosenfeld to walk participants through the process of writing rich, evocative scenes guaranteed to pull readers into a fictional world. Their workshop, “Make a Scene,” will run one and a half hours.


Nonfiction author Rebecca Lawton, whose credits include “On Foot in Sonoma” and “Reading Water: Lessons from the River,” presents “Writing Nature,” for those who see the natural world as more than scenery and want to explore the use of the wild as metaphor, character, and setting.


Ukiah authors Natasha Yim and Gretchen Maurer offer an introduction to the world of writing for children in their session, “Discovering the Children’s Writer in You From Idea to Submission.”


Besides workshops, Mendocino LitFest offers participants an evening and a day of authors reading, discussing and signing their books. Among the authors are mystery writers, memoirists, poets, and writers of literary fiction.


On Saturday, independent bookstores, regional publishers, self-published authors and small presses will be on campus selling their literature.


Pre-registration for the day’s four workshops is open through May 20. The fee for each hour-long session is $15.


The workshop schedule gives participants the option of signing up for any or all sessions. For detailed workshop information and a registration form, see www.mendolitfest.org.


Mendocino LitFest is made possible by an Arts for our Future grant from the Community Foundation of Mendocino County to Mendocino College. Major support has been provided by Friends of the Mendocino College Library, Visual Identity, J Design and Nine Trees Design.


For more information about LitFest, see www.mendolitfest.org or call 468-3051.


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Upcoming Calendar

25Nov
11.25.2020 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Library hosts ‘Zoom with the Director’ 
25Nov
11.25.2020 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Drive-up flu vaccine event
26Nov
11.26.2020
Thanksgiving Day
27Nov
28Nov
11.28.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
1Dec
12.01.2020 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Mendocino College Symposium
5Dec
12.05.2020 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Gallery Open Reception: Home
Middletown Art Center
12Dec
12.12.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
19Dec
12.19.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
24Dec
12.24.2020
Christmas Eve

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