Friday, 29 September 2023

Arts & Life


Beginning with 2010’s “Despicable Me,” Gru and the Minions, with Kevin, Stuart and Bob front-and-center, the pill-shaped international icons of mischief, mayhem and joy have delighted audiences in their elaborate criminal master plans.

An origin story of how Gru became a villain and allied with the banana-colored, goggle-eyed creatures, “Minions: The Rise of Gru” takes us on a wild trip suffused with 1970s pop culture.

The year is 1976, and the fashion trends that were all the rage in California come vividly to life in an explosion of brilliant colors, resulting in spectacular animation.

Long before he becomes the master of evil, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is just an 11-3/4-year-old boy in suburban San Francisco, plotting to take over the world from his basement.

During career day at school, while others aspire to be doctors or firemen, the mischievous Gru, with his precocious bent to the evil side, proudly announces that he wants to be a supervillain, and of course, gets mocked by his classmates.

Still too young to have mastered villainy, young Gru finds his incipient evil plans are not going particularly well, but then he crosses paths with the Minions and they join forces for a lasting bond.

The trio of Minions featured prominently (though I am unable to tell one from the other even if differentiated by having either one or two eyes) has a new member in Otto, sporting braces and a desperate need to please.

Meanwhile the infamous supervillain crew known as the Vicious 6 journey to a jungle to steal the powerful Zodiac Stone. The aging group leader Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin) suffers a betrayal from his cohorts, presumably left to die.

The Vicious 6 won’t be the same with Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson), sporting an afro even bigger than that of Angela Davis and swinging a lethal disco-ball mace, who looks like she belongs in a blaxploitation movie.

Remaining members of the Vicious crew include Lucy Lawless’ Nun-chuck, dressed in traditional nun’s habit; and Danny Trejo’s Stronghold, whose giant iron hands are both a menace to others and a burden to him.

Nordic roller-skating champion Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren) dispenses his enemies with spin kicks from his spiked skates; and the nihilistic Jean-Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme, the perfect fit) is armed literally with a giant robotic claw.

With Wild Knuckles dropped from Vicious 6, the most devoted fanboy Gru interviews to become their newest member, but they are not impressed by the diminutive, wannabe villain.

The Vicious 6 underestimate Gru, who outsmarts them by stealing the ancient pendant that gives them enormous power. With Gru on the run, the Minions try to master the art of kung fu, and things just get nuttier from there.

“Minions: The Rise of Gru” is family-friendly entertainment that the kids are bound to enjoy, knowing the popularity of the little yellow jokesters, while adults may enjoy the sight gags, such as three Minions hilariously filling in as the flight crew on a passenger jet.


Normally cast in roles where an easygoing manner and a sense of humor matters, Chris Pratt demonstrates serious chops in the tense, dramatic part of a Navy SEAL caught in a web of betrayal by sinister forces in “The Terminal List” on Amazon Prime Video.

The eight-episode series begins with Pratt as Lt. Commander James Reese leading a platoon of fellow SEALs through a precarious mission that goes horribly wrong, and he ends up the only survivor returning home with an impaired memory.

Reese’s recall of the mission differs widely with the official version of events, but as soon as he’s attacked by masked henchmen during an MRI scan, it’s obvious something nefarious is afoot. Or is he just imagining an assault?

Things take an even more serious turn when harm comes to his wife Lauren (Riley Keough) and young daughter Lucy (Arlo Metz), and Reese will go to great lengths for bloody, brutal and unrelenting revenge.

The commander soon runs afoul of Navy Admiral Pillar (Nick Chinlund) and some other officers, most of whom seem to be desk-bound jockeys without the slightest appreciation of what Reese had to endure in a faraway land.

While suffering symptoms of a concussion, Reese becomes aware that he and his platoon may have been subjected to a failed experiment, which leads to a shady corporate tycoon (Jai Courtney) as one of many villains along with corrupt government officials.

Stirring the pot is investigative journalist Katie Buranek (Constance Wu) looking into the conspiracy theory angle. Meanwhile, Reese gets support from his CIA friend Ben (Taylor Kitsch) and fellow veteran Liz (Tyner Rushing).

It’s interesting how the public rates “The Terminal List” an extremely high score that is wildly divergent from the ratings given by critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

The people have it right, as they often do. Chris Pratt delivers the goods in this suspenseful thriller series with high-octane action that is on target as an audience pleaser.

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

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

In her poem, “Scarf,” Rita Dove, with inimitable delicacy, efficiency and grace, captures something of the way in which our sensate bodies are often the true legislators of beauty.

Here, the sense of touch is celebrated through a beautiful image that evokes just how much our need to feel is as essential as breathing.

By Rita Dove

Whoever claims beauty
lies in the eye
of the beholder

has forgotten the music
silk makes settling
across a bared

neck: skin never touched
so gently except
by a child

or a lover.

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 ©2021 by Rita Dove, “Scarf” from Playlist for the Apocalypse, (W.W. Norton & Company, 2021.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 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.

Only a few weeks ago, CBS was claiming a ratings victory for the 2021-2022 television season, with a top network executive boasting that CBS was repeating its position as “America’s most-watched network.”

What does this have to do with the NBC network? Well, the Peacock network touts winning the September-to-May Season as the number one in the key 18 to 49-year-old demographic.

In the end, do the bragging rights have any real impact on the viewing audience’s consideration of where to tune in? It’s inside baseball that matters only to advertisers, so let’s chalk it up to pointless statistics.

Claiming to be the most-watched television show of the decade, “The Voice” returns this fall to anchor Monday nights for its 22nd cycle, welcoming multi-platinum global recording artist Camila Cabello.

Gwen Stefani, global superstar and music legend, returns to “The Voice,” alongside John Legend and Blake Shelton. The versatile Carson Daly, with a career as radio personality and talk show host, resumes his hosting duties.

Television producer Dick Wolf may be best known as the creator of the wildly popular “Law & Order” franchise, but success has also come to his Wednesday night lineup known as “One Chicago.”

The Windy City is at the center of a highly-rated night of drama series focusing on the professional and private lives of police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel with “Chicago Med,” followed by “Chicago Fire” and concluding with “Chicago P.D.”

NBC could also be the Dick Wolf network, at least for two full nights. The producer’s iconic brand owns Thursday nights with the flagship “Law & Order” kicking off Season 22, followed by the 24th season of “Law & Order: SVU.” The night concludes with “Law & Order: Organized Crime.”

What’s old becomes new in network television. “Night Court,” which ran on NBC from 1984 to 1992, starred Harry Anderson as eccentric Judge Harry Stone, who presided over a courtroom that devolved into plenty of wackiness.

John Larroquette’s prosecutor Dan Fielding, a constant presence before the judge’s night court, was an amoral narcissist and a lecher constantly hitting on attractive women with his sexual banter.

The new “Night Court” in the fall lineup has Melissa Rauch joining the cast as Judge Abby Stone, the daughter of the late Harry Stone, who follows in her father’s footsteps as she presides over the night shift of a Manhattan arraignment court.

Judge Abby has the unenviable task of trying to bring order to the courtroom’s crew of oddballs and cynics, most notably former night court prosecutor Dan Fielding. Indeed, John Larroquette returns 30 years later to the role. Will he be an aging lothario?

A family affair arrives for comedian George Lopez and his daughter Mayan Lopez in the fall comedy “Lopez vs. Lopez,” which is described by the network as a working-class family comedy about dysfunction, reconnection and all the pain and joy in between.

Apparently, George Lopez will have to contend with his ex-wife Rosie (Selenis Leyva), Mayan’s mother, as well as with Mayan’s live-in boyfriend Quinten (Matt Shively), seemingly thought to be the bane of his existence.

Another reboot to hit the fall schedule is “Quantum Leap,” which ran from 1989 to 1993 and starred Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett, a scientist who experimented in time travel and found himself trapped in the past.

Dr. Beckett’s journeys would have him “leap” into the bodies of different people on a regular basis to sort out their problems while trying like E.T. to get back home. On one occasion, he leaped into himself as a teenager to help his high school basketball team win a championship.

With Raymond Lee in the lead, a fresh team has been assembled in the new “Quantum Leap” to restart the time travel project in the hopes of understanding the mysteries behind the machine and the man who created it.

“Million Dollar Island,” a new unscripted series, is a high-stakes social experiment in which 100 contestants must forge friendships and build alliances as they plot to stay on a remote desert island for up to 50 days and compete to win their share of the ultimate $1 million prize.

Upon arrival each contestant is given a bracelet worth $10,000. During their time on the island, contestants gain and lose bracelets through various challenges, but when a player leaves the island, they must choose who will receive their portion of the money.

In this intense competition, the strength of personal bonds is just as important as being the ultimate player. “Survivor” won’t be the only game in town for an adventure reality show.

For the holiday season, “Dolly Parton’s Mountain Magic Christmas” is a movie musical about the frenetic backstage story of Dolly’s desire to uplift an exhausted world’s spirits by sharing the unique “mountain magic” found in and around Dollywood at Christmas.

Dolly shows the world that the real magic lies in the realization that Christmas is about the people we share it with, and how her faith remains the common thread between Christmases past, present and future.

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

John Brennan of Lutz, Florida, is the winner of the 2022 California Duck Stamp Art Contest. Courtesy image.

A painting by John Brennan of Lutz, Florida has been chosen as the winner of the 2022 California Duck Stamp Art Contest.

The painting, which depicts three Canada geese, will be the official design for the 2022-2023 stamp.

The judges praised the anatomical accuracy of the geese and realistic quality of the painting, remarking that it looked almost like a photograph.

They were impressed by the attention to detail, especially in the feathers and reflection on the water, and noted the contrast between the birds and the simplicity of the background.

They also appreciated the composition — the decision to use three geese was unique and created an artistically pleasing image.

Brennan decided to enter the contest when he learned that the Canada goose would be this year’s species.

“I find them to be a very elegant and versatile subject to paint,” he said, “considering their high-contrast head and cheeks and the warm tones of their body.”

He was lucky enough to photograph these geese for reference at Yellowstone National Park. The glassy water made for some very interesting reflections and play of light. He decided to keep the composition clean and simple, so as not to distract from the beauty of the animals.

Artists from around the country submitted entries for the contest, sponsored by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, or CDFW.

Buck Spencer of Junction City, Oregon, placed second, Jeffrey Klinefelter of Etna Green, Indiana, placed third and Michael Patrick Bailey of Los Angeles, California, received honorable mention.

The top four paintings will be displayed at the Pacific Flyway Decoy Association’s Annual Classic Wildlife Art Festival in Sacramento, July 16-17.

Since 1971, the California Duck Stamp Program’s annual contest has attracted top wildlife artists from around the country. The contest is open to artists from all 50 states in order to ensure a wide pool of submissions. All proceeds generated from stamp sales go directly to waterfowl conservation projects within California.

In the past, hunters were required to purchase and affix the stamp to their hunting licenses.

Today, hunters are no longer required to carry the stamps because California’s modern licensing system prints proof of additional fees paid directly onto the license.

However, CDFW still produces the stamps, which can be requested on CDFW’s website.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — Local writer, poet and journalist Thurman Watts’ writing is featured in a new anthology of Black writers titled “Black Fire — This Time.”

Watts’ contribution is a short story entitled, “Mbombe’s Glass.”

The anthology focuses on the history and legacy of the Black Arts Movement and features the writings of several Bay Area poets, along with more than 80 other contributors from across the country.

The 500-page collection provides a new generation with the powerful voices of the Black Arts Movement and beyond.

The foreword by Ishmael Reed, a poet and MacArthur “Genius” fellow, describes the work as a 21st century “update” on the state of Black writing arts, building upon the traditions of Alain Locke’s The New Negro (1925) and Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal’s Black Fire: an anthology of Afro-American Writing (1968).

Edited by Dr. Kim McMillon of the University of California, Merced, and with an Introduction by Dr. Margo Natalie Crawford, the theme of this anthology is “Black is Beautiful, Black is Powerful, Black is Home.”

The collection bridges many of the founders of the Black Arts Movement, including Nikki Giovanni, James Baldwin, Sonia Sanchez, Haki Madhubuti, Amiri Baraka, Wanda Coleman, Dudley Randall, Eugene B. Redmond and Askia Touré. It also features contemporary established writers in the tradition such as Brian G. Gilmore, extending to Ishmael Reed’s “younger generation”— Karla Brundage, Allison E. Francis, Tongo Eisen-Martin and C. Liegh McInnis.

The book is also distinguished for its inclusion and celebration of the LGBTQ+ community to provide a more complete view of the myriad perspectives on Black Identity and writing.

On Saturday July 16, at 1 p.m., Watts will join a virtual online conversation and reading with other contributors to “Black Fire–This Time.” The event is presented by the San Francisco Public Library and can be live streamed at this link:

“Black Fire —This Time” was published by Willow Press on March 15. The book in paperback retails for $34.99.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — The Middletown Area Merchants Association is once again presenting free movies in Middletown Square Park this summer.

The movie “Encanto” will be shown on Saturday, July 9, at dusk.

Come early to enjoy an evening in Middletown.

Bring chairs, blankets and a picnic to the park at the library and senior center at 21266 Calistoga Road.

All those attending must abide by California COVID-19 guidelines.

Upcoming movies are “Jungle Cruise” on July 23 and “Sing 2” on Aug. 13.

Upcoming Calendar

09.30.2023 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Kelseyville Pear Festival
09.30.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
10.01.2023 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Ron Green Memorial Benefit Concert
10.05.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
10.06.2023 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
David Arkenstone & Friends in concert
10.07.2023 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Sponsoring Survivorship Breast Cancer Run & Walk
10.07.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
Columbus Day
10.12.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center

Mini Calendar



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