Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Arts & Life



‘YELLOWJACKETS' ON SHOWTIME

Showtime’s 10-episode drama “Yellowjackets” works off the premise that a female-centric version of “Lord of the Flies” is compelling for the mystery of the survivors’ saga in the aftermath of a shocking airplane crash.

This series takes its name from a New Jersey girls high school soccer team with players so talented they have qualified to enter the national championship match. Hence, the ill-fated journey by air travel with their coach and a few others.

Even though the team name “Yellowjackets” is the series’ title, this is not a sports show about soccer competition. As a survival drama, the series is steeped in psychological and supernatural mystery that fluctuates with wild swings between the past and the present.

The storytelling about the fate of the girls and their accompanying adults is, in the words of writer Ashley Lyle, structured as a show not “about what happened, but about why it happened.”

Told in flashbacks from the time of the 1996 crash in the Canadian wilderness to the present day of 2021, we get to see how the passage of time has affected the survivors, most particularly the four characters in the leading roles.

Christina Ricci’s Misty was a friendless nerd serving as a team assistant. Melanie Lynskey’s Shauna, a player once destined to attend an Ivy League college, has now fallen into the rut of a loveless marriage and conflict with her spiteful teenage daughter.

Closeted in her school days, Taissa (Tawny Cypress) is an ambitious candidate for state senate who is haunted by her past as well as present-day coping with a son troubled by an inexplicable supernatural undercurrent.

Last of the group is erstwhile gothic teen Natalie (Juliette Lewis) who seems to have spent her adult life in a revolving pattern of drug and alcohol abuse and stints in rehab. Moreover, she was frequently slut-shamed as a cynical youth.

Seeing these women as their teen versions offers clues to their struggles and tribulations in adulthood. Misty’s younger self (Samantha Hanratty) was always weird and showed her cruel tendencies that carried over into her nursing home duties as an adult.

As for the rest of the teens, Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) is a driven competitor; sweet-natured Shauna (Sophie Nelisse) may be deceptive and cunning; and Natalie’s (Sophie Thatcher) stoner image belies her soccer talent.

There’s also a mystery about team captain Jackie (Ella Purnell), who is not seen in her adult years, at least in the episodes made available for review. But the real mystery lies elsewhere.

The featured adults harbor secrets that a fake reporter seeks to uncover with ludicrous offers of a book deal. What happened to the teens while in the woods is the pressing mystery and why are they receiving identical postcards suggesting a conspiracy of silence?

“Yellowjackets” is smartly written as a wickedly fascinating drama that at times dwells on the gore and macabre but ultimately relies on character and the tenuous bonds of relationships to deliver the goods.

DEAN STOCKWELL TRIBUTE ON TCM

Noted character actor Dean Stockwell, who recently passed away at the age of 85, started his entertainment career as a child actor and continued working in film and television for more than seventy years.

The TCM cable channel celebrates his life and career as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday with a retrospective of films while he was under contract with MGM for most of his childhood.

TCM’s on-air tribute to Stockwell includes “Anchors Aweigh” (1945), a story about a pair of sailors on leave trying to help a movie extra become a singing star.

In “The Green Years” (1946), an orphaned Irish boy is taken in by his mother’s Scottish relations. “The Mighty McGurk” (146) is about a punch-drunk prizefighter living on the Bowery who takes in an orphaned boy.

Friends and family try to tame an unruly student at the turn of the century in 1950’s “The Happy Years.” In “The Secret Garden” (1946), an orphaned girl changes the lives of those she encounters at a remote estate.

An orphaned boy mystically acquires green hair and a mission to end war in 1948’s “The Boy with Green Hair.” “Kim” (1951) is based on Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale of an orphaned boy who helps the British Army against Indian rebels.

While the majority of these films being aired as a tribute to the late actor are about an orphaned child, you might wonder if this is a reflection of Stockwell’s own circumstances. The short answer is in the negative.

Born into an entertainment family, Stockwell’s father was a stage and film actor and his mother had performed in vaudeville. The parents split up when he was little, but that didn’t make him an orphan.

A film that is not part of the TCM tribute is 1948’s “Deep Waters,” in which Stockwell played an orphan runaway longing to go to sea. With a 70-year career, at least he grew out of being cast as a child without parents.

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




‘RED NOTICE’ RATED PG-13

The challenge of coping during the pandemic has affected the entertainment business in multiple ways. One of them being how films are not only produced but released to the public.

Some films go straight to a streaming platform. Others, like the James Bond film “No Time to Die” waited for what seemed like forever for its rightful place on the big screen.

Warner Brothers, using its HBO Max streaming service, may have started the trend of releasing its films simultaneously in theaters and on its streaming platform.

Apparently that practice will change next year when Warner Brothers films assigned for theatrical release will run exclusively in cinemas for at least 45 days before hitting their paid video service.

Netflix is getting in on the action with its hybrid release of the comedy action film “Red Notice,” which was released in theaters for one week prior to its debut on its streaming service.

With an all-star cast of Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and the striking Israeli actress and model Gal Gadot (“Wonder Woman”), “Red Notice” probably benefits from the marketing tool of exposure on the big screen.

Netflix went big in other ways as well, staging a live premiere event at the L.A. Live event complex, which as recounted in “The Hollywood Reporter” trade publication “delivered a scene reminiscent of a major Hollywood award show.”

“Red Notice” takes its title from an Interpol advisory to its member countries that a fugitive fleeing a country is internationally wanted for evading justice. This would apply to Ryan Reynolds’ Nolan Booth, an international art thief trying to steal a historic golden egg.

As legend goes, according to the film’s fictional prologue, Cleopatra was gifted three Faberge-like golden eggs, of which two were discovered and the third missing one is the target of fortune hunters we’ve seen in films like “Indiana Jones” and “National Treasure.”

A notorious criminal like Nolan Booth will spare no effort to steal a precious golden egg, and he manages to get caught after being tracked to Rome by none other than Dwight Johnson’s FBI Agent John Hartley.

After Booth gets sent to an isolated Russian prison that feels like a Soviet gulag, Hartley himself ends up there as well subsequently getting framed for the heist by Gal Gadot’s The Bishop, another art thief eager to piece together a three golden egg collection for herself.

With Booth and Hartley engineering a daring prison break, it is one of the action highlights, including a wintry shootout at the prison gate as the duo hijack a helicopter that barely escapes rocket fire.

While Booth and the federal agent are forced into a tenuous partnership, intrepid Interpol inspector Urvashi Das (Ritu Arya) is hot on their trail. Hartley will need to find The Bishop to clear his name and having to rely on help from Booth is, well, kind of unsettling.

As to be expected, Booth and Hartley bicker and banter in what one calls a marriage of convenience, and at one point Booth, in his ubiquitously snarky tone, claims that he wants a divorce and is taking the children.

Another bad guy in the picture is the oddly-named Sotto Voce (Chris Diamantopoulus), a diminutive arms dealer whose fancy party is infiltrated by Booth and Hartley, and The Bishop shows up in a slinky red dress for a choreographed fight with them.

Sotto Voce is as about a ludicrous villain as you can imagine. For no apparent reason, other than maybe emulating Vladimir Putin, he takes his shirt off to reveal his tattooed torso while threatening Booth and Hartley, still chained to a post after being tortured.

One obvious point about this comedic heist caper is that despite its not-so-disguised lifting of thematic elements from other action films, the stellar cast of the three leading characters are the selling point to fun adventure.

Speaking of a copycat formula, a climactic scene involves an adventure into the Argentinian jungle in search of the missing egg hidden in an underground Nazi warehouse that reminds one of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

“Red Notice,” and this is not necessarily a bad thing, is running on its star power of charismatic actors doing their usual stuff. That would mean Ryan Reynolds’ comic riffs, Dwayne Johnson’s stoic intensity and Gal Gadot’s sexy allure and streetwise toughness.

Something endearing about “Red Notice,” with all of its hijinks and caustic banter, is that in spite of its huge budget there is no pretension of artistic merit. This is not an entertainment for high-brow critics. It’s nothing more than just escapist fun.

Dare to view the closing moment of “Red Notice” and not think a sequel is either already in the works or the producers await a public clamoring for the next installment. The actors are certainly charismatic enough to warrant a return engagement.

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

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Humor in poet­ry does not always soft­en the blow secret­ed with­in a poem.

Michelle Peñaloza knows that a tiny grenade sits in the mid­dle of ​“Dop­pel­gänger,” a seem­ing­ly pass­ing com­ment, but one full of all the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, shame and com­plex­i­ty of fam­i­ly lore and our culture’s painful truth: ​“it’s more like­ly she is/​racist.”

But there is, in the poem, a ten­der­ness that lies in the poet’s appre­ci­a­tion that her ​“tita” is more than this. She is also a myth, a sav­ior, a queen, and more, she is tired, and in this she is Oprah’s ​“dou­ble walker”.

Doppelgänger
By Michelle Peñaloza

It upsets my tita
that people think she
looks like Oprah. She says
she wants to be a queen
in her own right. I think
it’s more likely she is
racist. Or maybe she doesn’t
want the rest of us to expect
a car (!) and a car (!) and a car(!).
Or maybe my tita is tired
of being a savior and a myth.


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 ©2020 by Michelle Peñaloza, “Doppelgänger” from The Georgia Review, Winter, 2020. Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

There is a cer­tain delight­ful­ness in the rhythm and play of ​“Mov­ing to San­ta Fe” by Mary Mor­ris, in which she enacts the farewell song of some­one mov­ing from an old home to a new one.

In Mor­ris’ case, she is leav­ing a child­hood home in one part of the coun­try to a new adven­ture in anoth­er part of the coun­try, exchang­ing red dirt, peach­es and armadil­los for mud hous­es and the mesa.

If we are haunt­ed by this jaun­ty poem, it is because the images she invokes sharp­en adven­ture with a tinge of danger.

Moving to Santa Fe
By Mary Morris

I packed my boxes, beat the tornado.
My brother followed in his truck
with my bed and books of photos.

Good-bye father and mother, seven
brothers who fed us wild animals.
Farewell to the stone house strangled

with red dirt, rose rocks,
green hills, and burnt grass.
I will miss you, armadillos

and hairy hands of tarantulas
crossing the road in the dark.
Farewell friends. I’m not far.

Visit me in my mud house
under the shadow of the mesa.
Bring me peaches.

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 ©2020 by Mary Morris, “Moving to Santa Fe” from Dear October (Texas Review Press, 2020.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

UPPER LAKE, Calif. — After a year off due to COVID-19, the informal series of “Concerts with Conversation” at the Tallman Hotel resumes on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 14, at 3 p.m. with a performance by the accomplished blues guitarist Terry Robb and a guest appearance by the sax great Nancy Wright.

This will be the first of six Sunday concerts extending through April of next year in the Meeting House next to the Hotel.

“We’re really looking forward to seeing Terry Robb back at the Hotel,” said Tallman owner Bernie Butcher. “He was scheduled for a concert here in April 2020, just after we had to close down due to the pandemic.”

“All precautions have been taken to assure a safe and pleasant Sunday afternoon concert experience this year,” says Butcher. “Attendance has been limited to spread out the seating and all guests and performers must show proof of vaccination.”

Terry Robb is one of the leading acoustic interpreters of the blues genre on the West Coast. He is a Canadian fingerstyle guitarist, composer, arranger and record producer with 15 solo CDs to his credit. He is a member of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame and Cascade Blues Association Hall of Fame. Robb’s original compositions draw on the Delta blues, ragtime, folk, country and jazz traditions.

Nancy Wright is one of the most highly respected and in-demand sax players on today’s blues, Jazz and R&B scene. She has also emerged in recent years as an award-winning singer, songwriter and band leader. She has played to sold-out audiences at both the Soper Reese Theatre and at the Blue Wing Blues Festival.

Here are the five additional concerts coming up in the Tallman series:

Sunday, Dec. 12: Vocalist Paula Samonte with the Pierre Archain Concept. Paula is a favorite in Lake and Mendocino Counties and, among other honors, has been a soloist with the symphonies of both counties. The Pierre Archain Concept consists of jazz piano great Barney McClure with Gabe Yanez on drums and Pierre on bass.

Sunday, Jan. 23: Folk music singer, songwriter and guitarist Rita Hosking, backed by Sean Feder on banjo and dobro. In song and story, Hosking shares with the audience her upbringing in rural Shasta County and the old-time band of mountain characters that shaped her musically.

Sunday, Feb. 20: This will be a rousing afternoon of music with the dynamic pianist Steve Lucky and the vibrant guitarist, vocalist and entertainer Carmen Getit. It will be a lively mix of jump blues, swing, jazz and rare gems from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.

Sunday, March 13: Jazz violinist Mads Tolling together with guitarist Jeff Massanari. Mads is a Danish American violinist, composer, two-time Grammy Award winner and former member of the Turtle Island Quartet. One of the Bay Area’s most in-demand guitarists, Massanari is fluent in many styles including straight-ahead jazz, fusion, blues, rock and country.

Sunday, April 24: Outside in the garden (weather permitting), this season-ending concert will feature the world-famous avant-garde jazz trio Charged Particles, with special guest Paul McCandless on reed instruments. Charged Particles features Murray Low on keyboard, Aaron Germain on bass and percussionist Jon Krosnick.

The Sunday afternoon concerts run from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in Riffe’s Meeting House next to the hotel. Seating capacity has been reduced this year, so people are encouraged to purchase tickets as far in advance as possible. Many concert-goers reserve for a late brunch or early dinner at the Blue Wing Restaurant next door.

Tickets at $30 plus tax are available online at Eventbrite.com or by calling the Hotel at 707-275-2244, Extension 0. Coffee and cookies are served to guests and the Tallman is offering a 10% discount on hotel bookings that weekend for people purchasing concert tickets.



‘LAST NIGHT IN SOHO’ RATED R

A trippy homage to swinging ‘60s London and twisted tale of time-travel to a horrific nightmare, Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho” often seems like the polarized world of the dark side of sex and graphic violence that would be the hallmark of a David Lynch film.

As a country girl from Cornwall with dreams of becoming a fashion designer, Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie) is about to venture forth to the big city of London, leaving behind her doting grandmother (Rita Tushingham).

Orphaned at a young age, Ellie aspires to follow in her late mother’s footsteps. That may explain why her bedroom, complete with posters and ephemera from the 1960s, looks like a shrine to a bygone era.

The unsophisticated Ellie proves to be an outcast to the hip other girls at the fashion school. Her mean-girl roommate and the other party girls are so obnoxious that she leaves her dorm for a Soho rooming house run by Ms. Collins (Diana Rigg in her last movie role).

While Ellie’s designs show promise, they are fittingly retrograde to the ‘60s era. Her obsession with the past soon thrusts her into that Carnaby Street period as she dreams of a stunning blonde named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) who sings Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield tunes.

Any doubt that Ellie has ventured into the mid-1960s is dispelled when emerging onto a street where a movie theater’s marquee hosts an oversized poster of Sean Connery as James Bond in “Thunderball.”

As Sandie’s carefree lifestyle in Soho looms large in Ellie’s mind, the fashion student becomes so increasingly fixated on her alter ego’s world that she dyes her hair blonde and dresses in vintage clothes.

At times it seems like Ellie is inhabiting Sandie’s body, but soon recoils at the advances made by Sandie’s pimp Jack (Matt Walsh), a slick scoundrel with an ugly streak of thuggish behavior. The glamorous world of Sandie is a total illusion.

“Last Night in Soho” is ultimately a psychological thriller that offers more style than substance, and that would not be so bad but for the increasingly repetitive nature of the horror elements of ghoulish men as disturbing visions.

On the other hand, while the Sixties nostalgia of great music and fashions delights, Anna Taylor-Joy brings the era so vividly to life that one wishes her screen time would have been even greater.



‘ONLY THE ANIMALS’ NOT RATED

The French mystery thriller “Only the Animals” is an art house film that made its mark at the 2019 Venice Film Festival and is now making its way to limited theaters.

A blurb on the poster calls it “A French Fargo,” which might be a stretch but for the film’s quirkiness and the fact that a snowstorm in rural France reminds one of a cruel winter in North Dakota.

How do five characters on two continents factor into the death of one socialite woman in the highlands of southern France where one can drive for miles and see nothing but snowdrifts and occasional livestock?

For one thing, director Dominick Moll may have been inspired by Kurosawa’s “Rashomon” in that the film’s structure of adopting successive points of view creates mystery and suspense.

In the press notes, the director disabuses that notion, observing that everything revolves around the mystery of Evelyne Ducat (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) where “the points of view of his characters are incomplete, intertwined, and do not necessarily cover the same period.”

Switching viewpoints, “Only the Animals” reveals the secret connections between a reclusive farmer, an unfaithful husband and wife, a lovelorn waitress and an African internet scam artist, exposing a world of greed, lust, betrayal, and loneliness.

The film opens in the shantytowns of Ivory Coast’s capital city where Armand (Guy Roger N’drin), a young black man, is seen riding a scooter with a goat on his back. Your first thought is how does he figure in the story?

From coastal Africa, we move quickly to a frigid winter in rural France where married social worker Alice (Laure Calamy) is having an affair with morose farmer Joseph (Damien Bonnard).

Alice is the first to spot Evelyne’s abandoned car on the side of a desolate road. The police question Joseph who claims to know nothing about the driver but why are strange things happening on his property?

Shifting back in time, the bisexual Evelyne strikes up a tempestuous relationship with young waitress Marion (Nadia Tereszkiewicz) during a visit to a coastal Mediterranean city.

Tension arises when Evelyne, who’s just looking for sexual gratification, rebuffs Marion’s professed love. Does this make the young woman a suspect for murder?

What about Alice’s husband Michel (Denis Menochet), so desperate for an affair that he falls victim to Armand’s cyber-scam posing as the sexy Amandine who keeps asking for money?

What binds everyone in “Only the Animals” are deep, dark secrets and a search for love, often in the wrong places. Well, there’s also the tale of murder and intrigue to hold one’s interest.

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

Upcoming Calendar

28Sep
09.28.2022 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Levee and flood risk workshop
29Sep
09.29.2022 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
29Sep
09.29.2022 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Local Hazard Mitigation Plan update meeting
1Oct
10.01.2022 7:00 am - 11:00 am
Sponsoring Survivorship annual walk and run
1Oct
10.01.2022 8:00 am - 2:00 pm
Konocti Challenge
1Oct
1Oct
10.01.2022 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
1Oct
10.01.2022 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
20th annual Falling Leaves Quilt Show
1Oct
10.01.2022 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Weekly writing workshop

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