Wednesday, 05 August 2020

Arts & Life




‘THE WRONG MISSY’ ON NETFLIX

A Happy Madison Productions TV film on Netflix, “The Wrong Missy” is designed for the aficionados of the Adam Sandler school of comedy, and that’s not such a bad thing if you have the time, and don’t we all right now, for some mindless fun.

Comedy is often cringe-worthy entertainment that is either intentional or not, and if the former, the goal is to be unsettling, as if you were at an Andrew Dice Clay stand-up routine in his early days on the club circuit.

“The Wrong Missy” fits the bill in some ways to cause one to wince or recoil one moment and at the very next to be amused with the antics of the zany performance of the rubber-faced Lauren Lapkus’ Missy, the blind date from hell.

David Spade’s Tim Morris, looking to move up the corporate ladder at his loan company, plays it straight as an ordinary Everyman rather his usual snarky persona perfected over the years in show business.

Tim’s best friend at the office is Nick Swardson’s Nate from HR, who happens to know too much about Tim’s personal life. An upcoming company retreat in Hawaii suggests that Tim needs a girlfriend to come along for the trip.

A blind date arranged by Satan results when Tim meets Missy who just happens to be so crazy that she practically instigates a bar fight that would have Tim on the receiving end of a serious beatdown.

Following the blind date, an accidental mix-up with luggage at an airport causes Tim to meet another Melissa (Molly Sims), a former Miss Maryland, and after spending time together, they discover having all of the same likes.

Later, prior to the Hawaii trip, Tim sends a text invite to the new woman of his dreams to join him on this excursion, only to find too late that he asked the nightmare blind date instead.

What ensues may be predictable, as Tim is horrified at Missy’s increasing bizarre antics that just might derail his promotion by corporate mogul Jack Winstone (Goeff Pierson) who has taken control of the company.

“The Wrong Missy” could be dismissed by some as bargain basement comedy, but that would ignore some very funny one-liners and wild comic antics from Lauren Lapkus. It’s worthy of an R rating, so enjoy at your own risk.



‘BILLIONS’ ON SHOWTIME

Characters without a moral compass, regardless of their position in finance or the upper echelons of government, have provided for a highly entertaining run on Showtime’s “Billions” series, now in its fifth season.

One needs a scorecard to keep track of the sleazy machinations of high-powered players on either side of the law, as shifting alliances, backstabbing and double-dealing are the modus operandi of those who lack any shred of integrity.

Last season, Paul Giamatti’s Chuck Rhodes, New York’s Attorney General who got elected despite his notoriety for deviant proclivities, and Damian Lewis’ Bobby Axelrod, a ruthless billionaire hedge-fund manager, managed to be allies of a sort.

Well, disabuse yourself of any notion that there would be a long-lasting alliance between the top lawman of the Empire State and the power-mad manipulator of the financial markets. It will be more fun if they go back to trying to destroy one another.

Coming back into the fold at Axelrod’s Axe Capital is financial whiz Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon), the former employee who had become a rival. Taylor’s return marks an interesting dynamic with her people adapting to Axe’s culture.

One of the fascinating angles from the beginning has been the fact that Chuck Rhodes’ wife Wendy (Maggie Siff) has been the resident counselor for Axelrod and his staff during the times that her husband and boss were at odds.

But the marriage of Chuck and Wendy has been on the rocks, going back to when Chuck decided to unburden himself in a public manner of the couple’s strange world of sexual masochism complete with the dominatrix accouterments.

Now that Wendy and her husband have gone their separate ways, Chuck’s teaching a law course at an Ivy League college has placed him in a potential romantic orbit with sociology professor Catherine Brant (Julianna Margulies).

Meanwhile, even though Axelrod may have to watch his back from the Attorney General’s office, he faces a more pressing adversary in the unctuous billionaire investor Mike Prince (Corey Stoll) who presents a challenge by inviting Axelrod to a corporate retreat.

Despite Prince’s high-minded talk of team effort and giving back to society, the battle lines are drawn not only on the corporate front but also when Axelrod takes great interest in the avant-garde artist Nico Tanner (Frank Grillo) discovered by his rival.

For reasons too obvious, the great fun is watching the swaggering titans of finance and government sparring in cage matches where none of the combatants are particularly likable or righteous.

“Billions” continues to intrigue with its Darwinian survival of the fittest maneuverings of the overbearing and duplicitous government officials and rapacious corporate raiders. Enjoy the psychological warfare that ensues.

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



‘PENNY DREADFUL: CITY OF ANGELS’ ON SHOWTIME

Los Angeles, nicknamed the City of Angels but not for the California baseball team, has a fascinating history that has been popularized over time in film noir and seminal works like “Chinatown” and “L.A. Confidential,” two period pieces that leap to mind.

Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels” is set in 1938 Los Angeles, at a time of racial strife, rising evangelism, a public works project running roughshod over an immigrant community, and the Third Reich seeking a foothold on American soil.

As if the pre-World War II period is not intriguing enough, show creator John Logan introduces a supernatural element with Natalie Dormer’s demon Magda who busies herself stirring up tension and turmoil that percolates throughout Los Angeles.

Dressed in black, Magda makes her first appearance in a prologue by appearing in fields where migrant workers toil on harvesting crops, causing a tragic fire that claims the lives of many, including the father of a young boy who witnesses the carnage.

A counter-balance to the evil Magda, who also inhabits the human roles of a German immigrant housewife, a political aide and a leader in the Pachuco counter culture, is Santa Muerte (Lorenza Izzo), the Mexican folk saint associated with delivering the dead to the afterlife.

Fast forward to 1938, the young boy in the fields is now the adult Tiago Vega (Daniel Zovatto), who lives with his mother Maria (Adriana Barraza) and his siblings in the Latino community of Belvedere Heights, soon to be the flashpoint for a battle over urban renewal.

A reluctant trailblazer, Tiago becomes the first Mexican-American detective at the LAPD where he’s in conflict with fellow racist officers as much as he is with his own community that views him as some sort of sellout.

No one else wants to partner with Tiago other than veteran detective Lewis Michener (Nathan Lane), a Jew who has his own struggle with the rising tide of anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head in the presence of Nazi sympathizers openly holding rallies in public parks.

The first case for Tiago and Lewis is a crime scene in the cement basin of the Los Angeles River, where a family of four from wealthy Beverly Hills is found dead, their bodies heavily mutilated with a Day of the Dead motif.

Nearby on the channel wall, the detectives find an ominous message in Spanish that translates to “You take our heart, we take yours.” Indeed, the corpses have had their hearts removed in a ritualistic fashion that forebodes a looming racial skirmish.

Los Angeles City Councilman Charlton Townsend (Michael Gladis) is pushing his weight around in a committee meeting to thrust the development of the Arroyo Seco freeway that will run right through the middle of Belvedere Heights, displacing scores of its inhabitants.

The residents show up in force at a council hearing and Tiago’s brother Raul (Adam Rodriguez) is in the forefront of fierce opposition to the freeway, presaging the inevitable unease that will cause a huge rift in the Vega household.

The shape-shifting Magda appears as the compliant Alex, a dowdy advisor to Councilman Townsend who manipulates her boss into compromising positions which seem almost certain at some point to further the aims of local Nazis to gain influence at City Hall.

Townsend’s unwavering commitment to the freeway, even in the face of a threat from a veteran councilwoman for a pitched political battle, eventually leads to a violent confrontation at the roadway’s construction site, leading to the death of cops and civilian protestors.

Of course, the unseen hand of Magda is behind the violence, as her only aim is to sow chaos and foment distrust between the whites and immigrants, which might open up a receptive audience for the Third Reich’s inroads into local government.

While Lewis starts working solo to investigate the murder of Jewish friends who had been spying on the Nazis, Tiago gets involved with radio evangelist Sister Molly (Kerry Bishe), an alluring temptress who chafes at the control exercised by her mother (Amy Madigan).

Another character for the devious Magda is that of young German-born housewife Elsa who frequently visits the office of pediatrician Peter Craft (Rory Kinnear), another expatriate with a troubled marriage to the alcoholic Linda (Piper Perabo).

Not concealing his affinity for Nazi Germany, Dr. Craft is the leader of the German-American Bund, a group that seeks to exploit the isolationist views of a public wary of entanglement in another costly war on foreign soil.

“City of Angels” may suffer from too many storylines, though each one holds its own fascination for the fate of every character even as the chameleon-like Magda juggles so much conniving guiles that are irresistible.

A key facet to this limited series is the aesthetic rendering of Los Angeles of the late Thirties that is amazing in its authentic details. For the atmosphere alone, “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels” draws one into an experience that is worth watching.

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

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

Deirdre O’Connor is the director of The Writing Center at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and the following poem is from her new collection from Able Muse Press, “The Cupped Field.”

I’m sticking my neck out here, but I suspect this is the first poem in human history to picture a group of children making a practice visit to a dentist. And such a touching picture it is!

At the Dentist's

“Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it,” reads the needlepoint
above the dentist’s door, beyond which “Little Learners”
are doing time in the chair. One at a time, up and down,
they practice how to be not afraid, to tip their chins,
spit. And then to brush in circles gently
for two minutes. No blood today, no needles, drills,
just a plastic sack of gifts: a magnet of a happy tooth,
a purple toothbrush, paste. In the waiting room,
their winter coats are stacked: smooth, inflatable animals,
an occasional Pittsburgh Steelers in the mix.
The youngest ones need help getting their arms in,
getting zipped, and when they’re all lined up and holding
hands in pairs, they lift their faces as if toward God
to the camera. Having been happily trained for pain,
they flash their unharmed smiles, and in my mind, I exit
with them, all my ex-selves, mittens attached
to their jackets, bright and unbreakable.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2019 by Deirdre O’Connor, "At the Dentist’s," published under the title “The Yoke,” from The Cupped Field, (Able Muse Press, 2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Deirdre O’Connor and the publisher. Introduction copyright @2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Once, as a young man, I needed a pair of black shoes to wear at a wedding at which I was to be a groomsman and after work one day I was following a truck with a flapping canvas over the open back, when out of it spilled box after box of shoes, and I pulled over to the side, jumped out and grabbed a pair that fit me perfectly.

Here’s another experience like that, as described by Lucy Adkins, a poet from Nebraska, whose most recent book is “One Life Shining.”

I found this in the Summer 2019 issue of Plainsongs.

Potatoes

He was traveling from Chicago
to Joliet, he said, on the expressway,
Old State Highway 59, when a
semi rollover caused a load of potatoes
to scatter across the road.

People stopped, pulled their
pickups and jeeps, their Chevy vans
and VW bugs off to the shoulder,
got out and dashed across three lanes
of traffic after Idaho russets and
Yukon Golds, reds and whites and yams.

I’d have understood if it were
a Brinks truck with flyaway tens
and twenties. But potatoes?
Perhaps it was the fact of
sudden bounty dropping down
in front of you, and like unexpected
grace, you must be grateful,
whatever it is that is given.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2019 by Lucy Adkins, "Potatoes," from Plainsongs (Summer 2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Lucy Adkins and the publisher. Introduction copyright @2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

LAKE AND MENDOCINO COUNTIES, Calif. – The deadline to be considered for performing in the MendoLake MusicFest is this Friday, May 15.

The MendoLake MusicFest has a few more slots available. The festival is a celebration of the local performing artists that contribute to the rich cultural community in Lake & Mendocino counties.

From school music programs to our touring professionals, live music is the glue that holds us together.

MendoLake MusicFest is hosting a free, live-streamed concert, featuring and celebrating local musicians and performers on Sunday, May 24.

Organizers are asking for video submissions of some of your best work – recorded from a previous live performance or something recorded virtually – to share with the community.

The goal is to produce an hour to an hour and a half event, showcasing musicians from all age groups and genres of music.

Please include the following when you email your submission:

– Performer/group/band name;
– Song selection;
– Video of a previously recorded performance or a virtually compiled performance created while maintaining social distancing practices. (Video should be in landscape mode.)
– Name(s) of the performer(s).
– A short biography on your band / what you want the audience to know (about the band or the song).
– Contact information.

Email your submission information to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

If you or someone you know has a song to sing, share your melody with Mendocino County for this year’s Mendo Musicfest.

If you have any questions or concerns, contact the event organizers at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



‘HUNTERS’ ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

A dark chapter in modern history, the Holocaust is a grim reminder of the unspeakable horror of the forced labor, torture and mass killings imposed on the Jewish people in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.

Survivors of the Nazi genocide are a dwindling number these days 75 years after the liberation of the death camps, with Auschwitz probably the most notorious one.

“Hunters” may serve, in an uncomfortable way, as a reminder of the Nazi regime’s cruel barbarism.

During the winter television press tour, show creator and executive producer David Weil reported that his grandmother was a Holocaust survivor whose stories about her time during the war “felt like the stuff of comic books and superheroes.”

For the memories of a then-impressionable 6-year-old, Weil may have formulated in his mind that donning a vigilante cap to fight antisemitism was a good premise for a group of Nazi hunters in 1977 to root out war criminals in our midst.

The premise of “Hunters” rests on the notion of a vengeance fantasy where philanthropist Holocaust survivor Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino) recruits and leads a diverse group of hunters based in New York City to pursue war criminals.

In the first episode, teenager Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman) deals drugs in Brooklyn to support his grandmother Ruth (Jeannie Berlin), who ends up brutally murdered. It turns out that Meyer and Ruth were together at Auschwitz.

The Holocaust history is news to Jonah and he longs for revenge, but Meyer is initially reluctant to recruit the young math whiz into the group until Jonah proves his value as a code-breaker.

The show’s most jarring note is the introduction of Dylan Baker’s role of creepy Biff Simpson, an undersecretary of state who turns out to be a high-level Nazi.

This revelation strains credulity in the obvious sense that one would expect a person appointed to an important federal post would have been vetted in a serious background check.

Interesting sidekicks in the hunter group include Josh Radnor’s Lonny Flash, a master of disguises with a sly sense of humor and Kate Mulvany’s Sister Harriet, a former MI6 operative dressed as a nun.

Another standout is Jerrika Hinton’s Millie Morris, an African-American FBI agent who stumbles onto the Fourth Reich conspiracy.

“Hunters” is so often unnerving that it has caused me to wonder at the halfway point of ten episodes whether to hang in to the end. Curiosity may get the better of me.

‘CHICAGO P.D.’ REVISITED ON NBC

During this time of the seemingly eternal lockdown, is there a chance we will run out of programming on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to fill the void of entertainment that may not be enjoyed in public venues?

While Netflix and Amazon appear primed to take care of our immediate needs for diversions, there is a world beyond the streaming services. Let’s take a look at what network television may have to offer.

You can count on producer Dick Wolf for successful network runs of must-see television. One that has no end in sight is the popular “Chicago” franchise series that began with “Chicago Fire.”

The original series that focused on firefighters in the Windy City and Jason Beghe’s Hank Voight, suspected of being a dirty cop, was a recurring character involved in a feud with a fire station lieutenant.

Launched as a spinoff, “Chicago P.D.” turned Sergeant Voight into the central character running the Intelligence Unit to deal with major offenses such as high-profile murders, drug trafficking, organized crime and other sensational crimes.

The tough-talking Voight can be as ruthless in enforcement as he is caring for the vulnerable. He always seems willing to make an extra effort to help young kids break free of criminal gangs.

Now in its seventh season, “Chicago P.D.” maintains consistency with Voight’s character willingness to bend the rules and ignore the admonitions of the brass often worried about an outfit that many want disbanded.

Voight and his mainstays, Detective Jay Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer), Officers Adam Ruzek (Patrick John Flueger, Kevin Atwater (LaRoyce Hawkins) and Kim Burgess (Marina Squerciati), and Desk Sgt. Trudy Platt (Amy Morton), have been around since day one.

Other characters come and go over the years. Sophia Bush’s Erin Lindsay was one that Voight took under his wing and who then joined the force, and later in the series decided to join the FBI, much to the disappointment of her mentor.

The gravel-voiced Voight remains consistent in his tough-guy routine with operating techniques one would think that put him in the crosshairs of Internal Affairs with the frequency of daily meals.

The rough-and-tumble of policing by Voight and his team is unlikely to change. If Voight has a catchphrase, it’s most prone to be “Do what you gotta do.” As “Chicago P.D.” was recently extended for another three seasons, chances are that Voight’s maxim hangs around too.

“Chicago P.D.” continues to be a durable police procedural that fans of the genre will tend to enjoy for the mix of action and personal drama.

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

Upcoming Calendar

6Aug
08.06.2020 10:30 am - 1:00 pm
Lakeport Police medication collection
6Aug
08.06.2020 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Clearlake City Council
6Aug
08.06.2020 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Thompson virtual town hall
7Aug
08.07.2020 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Farmer’s Market and Makers Faire
8Aug
08.08.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
11Aug
08.11.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers’ Finest Tuesday market
11Aug
08.11.2020 10:30 am - 1:00 pm
Lakeport Police medication collection
12Aug
08.12.2020 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Lake County Democratic Party
13Aug
08.13.2020 10:30 am - 1:00 pm
Lakeport Police medication collection

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