Friday, 02 December 2022

Arts & Life

LAKEPORT A reception will be held in honor of Rachael Weiss on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 1 p.m. at the Main Street Gallery in Lakeport.


Rachael has been selected to represent Lake County in the State Finals of the Annual Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest. During the reception she will perform two of the classic poems that she has chosen to memorize for the state competition.


The reception is open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

 

Rachael is an independent study high school student in Middletown. She writes poetry and prose and can be seen at open mics around the county reciting her own material or her favorite classics. She is a confident young lady who feels comfortable in the spotlight. Her range encompasses both humorous and dramatic material.

 

Poetry Out Loud is a collaborative project of National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. It seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry-recitation and performance. The program builds on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement and the immense popularity of rap music among youth.

 

Poetry Out Loud provides standards based curriculum materials for use in high school classrooms. There is no cost to the schools to participate and all materials are provided free of charge. Any education professionals wanting more information about the program are encouraged to attend this event. Materials will be available at the reception or can be downloaded from poetryoutloud.org.

 

Poetry Out Loud in Lake County is supported by and funded through the California Arts Council and Lake County Arts Council.


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27 DRESSES (Rated PG-13)


This column strives to stay current on new film releases, as long as the studios are cooperating by holding screenings for critics. That’s not always the case at the start of the year, when so much of the new product is nothing more than cinematic jetsam that studios are eager to dump.


Spoof movies, particularly the Scary Movie franchise, can be entertaining and erratically funny. So it seemed Meet the Spartans could be mildly diverting, and 20th Century Fox put me on a screening list after I made a request to see it. Yet, a day before the event the invite was unceremoniously snatched away when it dawned on somebody that a critic would get an advance peek.


The moral of this story is that any studio disdain for press coverage is the surest sign that the film in question is an unmitigated train wreck. The more charitable view is that certain films, perhaps the spoof movies more than ever, are immune to criticism.


So why bother spending money on promotions, other than the requisite advertising? Now, I could rush to the theater and pay good money to see Meet the Spartans, but that could be a fool’s errand, kind of like buying season tickets for the Arizona Cardinals.


Let’s move on to another film from 20th Century Fox, the formulaic 27 Dresses which is the kind of cute, predictable romantic comedy that practically every guy in the universe would wisely avoid seeing under any normal circumstance, unless of course his significant other insists on a date movie. What we have here is a sappy love story that would more likely appeal to the ladies, or at least that’s my educated guess.


27 Dresses is by no means dreadful, and if I can survive it, then maybe the smart play for the guy is to make this a date movie, as long as the relationship is secure. After all, guys, you don’t want to be compared unfavorably to the hunky, toothy-grinned James Marsden, who plays the cynical journalist so obviously destined to become the love interest for the hopelessly sentimental Katherine Heigl.


If you can’t see the romance brewing between Heigl and Marsden only minutes after they meet, then you should stay home and watch endless repeats of the formulaic movies running on the Lifetime Channel. Heigl’s Jane is the perennial bridesmaid, and she has 27 dresses in her closet to prove it.


One memorable evening, Jane manages to shuttle between wedding receptions in Manhattan and Brooklyn, a feat witnessed by Kevin, a newspaper reporter consigned to writing the bridal beat. Now he realizes that he’s got a potential big story about a wedding junkie that could land him on the front page.


When Jane and Kevin meet at a wedding, they lock horns as she is repulsed by his cynicism. Meanwhile, Jane is in love with her boss, George (Edward Burns), a colorless character who is seemingly oblivious.


Jane’s neatly-ordered life is upended when her flighty, flirtatious younger sister Tess (Malin Akerman) arrives in town and sets her sights on capturing the heart of George. Not surprisingly, Tess succeeds, in part due to her remarkably shallow ability to feign interest in whatever George happens to like.


A whirlwind romance follows, and Tess and George soon announce their nuptials, enlisting Jane of course to organize the whole affair, including locating a 28th dress. Meanwhile, when not sulking about this turn of events, Jane slowly becomes more attracted to the willing and available Kevin, at least until his ill-timed expose of the perpetual bridesmaid surfaces in the newspaper. Hey, what’s a romantic comedy without some conflict that will eventually be resolved in the most satisfactory manner?


Katherine Heigl and James Marsden are charming actors who have come off well in recent film roles. In 27 Dresses they display the right note of chemistry in their tangled relationship. It’s enough to make the film bearable for guys stuck in the date movie mode.


DVD RELEASE UPDATE


Chances are Meet the Spartans will hit the DVD shelves in short order. Meanwhile, another spoof movie you may have missed at the multiplex, The Comebacks, is now available in both unrated and theatrical DVD editions.


It holds some appeal, considering that it spoofs a wide range of inspirational sports films, ranging from Rocky to Field of Dreams to Remember the Titans, naming just a few.


David Koechner stars as out-of-luck coach Lambeau Fields, who is persuaded to take to the field one last time and drives a rag-tag team of misfits towards a football championship.


The Comebacks is the Scary Movie for the uplifting sports genre, and it packs a number of laughs.


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


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CLOVERFIELD (Rated PG-13)


That the action thriller “Cloverfield” is inspired by a famous Japanese monster is unmistakable on several fronts, particularly when the ugly creature turns out to be the size of skyscraper. The film’s producer J.J. Abrams conceived the idea of a new monster when he noticed a plethora of Godzilla-themed toys while on a publicity tour in Japan. It dawned on him that in America we don’t have a monster with an enduring cultural relevance. Indeed, he isn’t thinking of Paris Hilton or Britney Spears. Simply put, we don’t have our own Godzilla-like beast that scares the daylights out of the populace.


Even with its relatively short running time, “Cloverfield” is milking suspense and tension from the same claustrophobic atmosphere achieved in “The Blair Witch Project.”


The film opens with official government documentation of a retrieved camcorder that chronicled the end of party time for a bunch of twentysomething Manhattan hipsters. Yes, this entire movie is shot by a handheld camera; the result is as unsteady as a partygoer who’s had one too many drinks.


The main character is Rob (Michael Stahl-David), if only because the party is being held in his honor as readies for an executive transfer to Japan and the early footage on the tape involves his morning-after a big date with Beth (Odette Yustman).


As the bon voyage party starts to gear up at a trendy SoHo loft, Rob’s good friend Hud (T.J. Miller) is assigned to document the event with a small video camera, a task for which he is uniquely unqualified.


Though he rarely gets on film, Hud is an amusing narrator of the party scene, especially as he focuses on pretty party organizer Lily (Jessica Lucas), and her boyfriend Jason (Mike Vogel), brother of the guest of honor.


Seeking to get on-camera testimonials from the party guests, Hud becomes so enamored of the indifferent Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) that he pesters her with constant questions. The party cranks up to full blast, consuming a good chunk of time while the audience nervously anticipates when all hell will break loose.


The prolonged party scene affords an opportunity to become aware of the central characters that will be forced to band together for mere survival. Beth arrives at the party with a new boyfriend, though it is readily apparent that Rob has a major crush on her and wants to recapture the magic they previously had.


The action kicks in suddenly and potently when the loft starts shaking as if a 7.5 earthquake is eerily unleashed in the Hudson River.


Partygoers rush to the rooftop only to be frightened witless by scenes of exploding buildings in lower Manhattan. Panic rules as everyone rushes haphazardly into the streets, and in a scene reminiscent of 9/11 there is billowing smoke and dust rolling through the streets.


When the head of the Statue of Liberty drops into the middle of a wide avenue, there is something afoot far more fearsome than just a few well-timed explosions.


Attempting the flee the city on foot across the Brooklyn Bridge, Rob, Jason, Lily, Marlena and Hud are suddenly pushed back to Manhattan when the monster wipes out the bridge. To heighten the tension, the monster is seen in only brief glimpses, resulting in a far more intimidating presence.


When the Army arrives with guns and tanks blazing, the monster becomes more fully realized as it sheds parasites the size of large dogs, which have a speedy crab-like crawl and viciously attack and destroy people.


Meanwhile, Rob is frantically trying to reach Beth by cell phone, only to discover that she’s trapped in her high-rise apartment building. Going against good sense and ignoring the evacuation plans of the Army, Rob insists that he will have to rescue Beth. His friends agree to the sheer folly of the mission, including climbing some 50-odd flights of stairs after being warned that a deadline has been set for the final destruction of Manhattan.


“Cloverfield” may pull more interest from the under-25 crowd, not just because the characters are young hipsters, but also for the “YouTube” style of filmmaking. Others may be less enamored of the home movie feeling that comes with unsteady camera work.


On many levels, the tight framing device of handheld photography heightens the terror and disturbing images attendant to the monster’s vicious destruction of the city.


DVD RELEASE UPDATE


You may recall “The Matador” as a quirky, enjoyable, oddball film about a hit man. Richard Shepard was the director responsible for that adventure, and now his latest foray into suspense and action is the DVD release of “The Hunting Party.”


Inspired by true events, this edgy thriller stars Richard Gere and Terrence Howard as vacationing journalists who try to get the scoop of a lifetime by embarking on a dangerous mission that takes them deep into hostile territory in search of a missing Bosnian war criminal.


Fast-paced and exciting, “The Hunting Party” is loosely based on an Esquire magazine article about journalists fronting as a CIA hit squad in one of Eastern Europe’s deadliest regions.


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


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UPPER LAKE – On Feb. 7, the Blue Wing Saloon and Café, located next door to the Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake, will launch a new series of monthly “Meet the Winemaker” evenings.


These events extend the Blue Wing’s focus on offering its patrons the best wines produced in Lake County.


The Winemaker Evenings will be held on the first Thursday of each month from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.


The evenings will allow restaurant patrons to taste a wide variety of wines and meet some of the most notable winemakers in the area.


The saloon kitchen staff will work closely with the winemakers each evening to produce special dishes that properly compliment the wines being featured.


Following is the schedule for the first five months of the series. The saloon will continue to offer a full range of wines from each featured winemaker for the rest of the month.


– Thursday, Feb. 7: Winemaker Matt Hughes of Zoom Wines will kick off the series. Zoom is a Lake County Zinfandel specialist whose wines have been big sellers at the Saloon since its opening in June 2005. Matt is also winemaker for the Blue Wing Sauvignon Blanc (Bennett Vineyards) and Blue Wing Syrah (Obsidian Ridge Vineyards) as well as the popular Blue Wing house Chardonnay and Cabernet. He is currently chairman of the Lake County Winery Association.


– Thursday, March 6: Ceago Vinegarden winemaker Javier Tapia and owner Jim Fetzer will pour their biodynamically grown Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The beautiful lakeside Ceago facility and tasting room is located on Highway 20 between the towns of Nice and Lucerne.


– Thursday, April 3: Eden Crest Vineyards owners and winemakers TJ and Tammy Mickel will pour their handcrafted Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. With production facilities in Kelseyville, this family winery produces less than 1,000 cases a year, but their attention to detail is rewarded with a truly wonderful product marketed at a reasonable price.


– Thursday, May 1: Shannon Ridge winemakers Marco DiGuilio and Mike Wood together with owner Clay Shannon will present a selection of wines, most made from grapes grown on the high elevation Shannon Ridge property above Clear Lake. The quaint Shannon Ridge tasting room managed by Joey Luiz is located in a converted one-room schoolhouse in Clearlake Oaks. Wood also will pour his own Shed Horn wines.


– Thursday, June 5: Naughty Boy Vineyards winemaker Greg Graziano and owners Jim and MJ Scott will pour the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines made from grapes grown on the Scotts’ six-acre vineyard in Potter Valley. The 2004 Naughty Boy Pinot Noir was recently ranked by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the 100 best wines on the West Coast.


Re-established in the Lake County town of Upper Lake in June 2005 by owners Lynne and Bernie Butcher, Blue Wing Saloon and Cafe stands in the same location as its namesake, first opened in the 1880s. The saloon remained a popular watering hole until the onset of prohibition in 1920.


In the tradition of the original saloon, the Blue Wing proudly offers customers fine food, local microbrews and wines at affordable prices.


Information on the adjacent Tallman Hotel can be found at www.tallmanhotel.com. Blue Wing Saloon and Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake, www.bluewingsaloon.com.


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Faded At Four rocks on: Back row, from left, bassist Martan Scheel, guitarist Brian Kenner, drummer Chris Sanders and guitarist Chris Murphy, with lead singer Jon Foutch seated in the front. Photo by Cecil Blackburn.



LAKEPORT – Five of Lake County’s own have struggled their way through 4,500 bands competing for a $1 million recording contract from Bodog Music.


Faded At Four members Jon Foutch, Brian Kenner, Martin “Martan” Scheel and Chris “Pencil” Sanders played Sunday, Jan. 13 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco to a sea of their fans who traveled over three hours to support their favorite rock band.


Faded At Four’s 22-minute set in the 12-band show included fan favorites from their soon to be released CD, “Collateral” such as “They” and “Unhero” after a special tribute to Iraq war veteran and band member Chris “Murph” Murphy, who was in the audience cheering on his fellow band members on.


The band arranged travel, food and entrance for three buses of their fans from Lake County, Mendocino County, Sonoma County and Sacramento to win their place in the competition through fan voting and ticket sales with their performance scored by judges from as far away as Texas.


This competition started as an online voting process with Faded At Four registering in July 2007 and quickly moving up the ranks to hold steady in the top five in the world and number one in the San Francisco Division.


The first live competition was held in October 2007 and eight of those bands advanced to the next round in December. Four bands from the December round moved on to the Semi-Regional Finals and from there, three bands move on to the Regional Finals in Hollywood.


The single band that wins the March competition in Hollywood will advance to the reality-based TV show “Bodog Battle of the Bands” in which eight bands will compete worldwide through touring and various music based competitions. Bands will be eliminated one at a time with the final band winning a one million dollar recording contract from Bodog Music.


Their fans will be able to design their own Faded At Four vacation in Hollywood for this round of competition with arrangements being made for travel to and from the city via air, train, or bus, group rates for hotel accommodations and various group activities leading up to the competition.


Faded At Four past accomplishments were to win the Uber grand prize in Ukiah’s first annual Bandslam Competition; the band also opened for Kid Rock at Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa.


For more information visit the band's Web site at www.fadedatfour.com.


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Though it has nothing to do with the writers strike, there is not much in the way of new films for the start of a new year. The early crop of films, such as they are, is so weak that studios won’t bother to screen them for critics.


This neglect is a calculated strategy to dump some lousy films on an unsuspecting public. Well, I won’t fall for it, and neither should you. So let’s take a look at some of the DVD releases for the short term, and figure out if staying home is a better option.


If the writers strike keeps going on indefinitely, we might be seeing more DVD releases like the one for El Cid, starring film legends Sophia Loren and Charlton Heston from a bygone era when grand-scale, sweeping historical epic films were made in Hollywood. The Limited Collector’s Edition of El Cid digitally remasters its picture and sound, with an introduction by director Martin Scorsese.


The richly romanticized tale of a real-life Castilian knight and legendary Spanish hero earned several Oscar nominations and popular acclaim. The special two-disc DVD set includes not only multiple featurettes, but also reproductions of the original 1961 souvenir program and original 1961 El Cid comic book.


An ongoing trend in the DVD business is the reliance on the ubiquitous Collector’s Edition to spice up old favorites. This is the case for director Rob Reiner’s timeless romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally.


Starring in the titular roles, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan attempted in comical ways to answer the question of whether sex will ruin a true friendship between a man and a woman. The film was memorable for some of the greatest scenes and quotes in movie history. Now, this special edition of the DVD has many hilarious deleted scenes and never-before-seen bonus features, including the “I Love New York” featurette in which the cast and crew describe the location and its importance in setting the story.


Denzel Washington cut a charismatic figure as Frank Lucas, the brutal heroin kingpin from Harlem, smuggling the drug into the country from the Far East in American Gangster. This film may be released on DVD sometime in February at the earliest.


Meanwhile, the true story of Frank Lucas’ drug rival during this era is being released as Mr. Untouchable. Nicky Barnes became the face of drug trafficking and dominated the heroin trade scene of the 1970s. Trusted and trained by two Italian mobsters, Barnes set up his own black crime family, the Council.


Infamous for his excessive lifestyle and inability to be prosecuted, Barnes was dubbed “Mr. Untouchable.” After 23 years of silence, Mr. Untouchable includes firsthand tell-all testimony from Nicky Barnes, who is currently in a witness protection program. The film includes interviews from former Council members and others in the Barnes drug collective. One of the bonus features is a recorded phone conversation between Nicky Barnes and Frank Lucas.


Maybe you didn’t catch this quirky dark comedy series when it was on the FX network, but now you can pick up The Riches Season One DVD set.


Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver star as Wayne and Dahlia Malloy, who take their family of three children for a life on-the-run to con and scam the unsuspecting and the greedy. One day, in a darkly comedic twist of fate, an opportunity presents itself, allowing the Malloys to escape from their past by pulling off the con of all cons. They assume the identity of a family living a privileged life in an exclusive, gated suburban community. Living as law-abiding citizens is complicated by nosy neighbors, jealous fellow con artists, and authorities hot on their trail.


British actor Clive Owen is not quite a household name, but he’s done terrific work in films like Croupier and Children of Men. Not so long ago, in recognition of his charisma and physical presence, he was touted as a possible James Bond. His early television work made him a huge star in Britain, and now it is time to catch up to Chancer.


Acorn Media already released Chancer, Series 1 last year, and now “Series 2” delivers the final seven episodes about a con artist, swindler and purported savior of a struggling sports car company.


The central figure is Clive Owen’s Stephen Crane, an irresistible rogue who gets caught up in enough intrigues involving sex, money and power struggles to rival anything seen on Dynasty or Dallas.


Jason Biggs, who achieved notoriety by carnal knowledge of baked goods in American Pie, stars with Isla Fisher in the riotous comedy Wedding Daze. After suddenly losing his “perfect girlfriend,” Biggs is convinced he’ll never find love again.


But at the urging of his best friend, he spontaneously proposes to a neurotic coffee shop waitress named Katie (Fisher). Thus starts an unusual journey to the wedding, which somehow involves a prison break by the bride’s father and a robbery of a clothing store for appropriate wedding attire.


The Dragon Dynasty label from the Weinstein Co. keeps cranking out martial arts films. Fatal Contact presents a dark, amoral world with contemporary style, pace and themes.


A naïve martial arts champion of China’s national team, Kong (Wu Jing) is desperate for cash and with the added pressure from his girlfriend he reluctantly joins an underground fighting ring. Blending visually brilliant fight scenes with raw violence, Fatal Contact is broken up by occasional humor from the supporting cast, including funnyman Ronald Cheng.


The post-holiday cinematic blues should end in the next week, and the studios will be back to promoting even their mediocre product.


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


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