Sunday, 16 June 2024

Arts & Life



‘DRIVE-AWAY DOLLS’ RATED R

Together, the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, have an undeniably eclectic style touching on different genres.

Notable, in no particular order, are “Raising Arizona,” “Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski,” and “No Country for Old Men,” just to name a few.

Going his own way with “Drive-Away Dolls” is Ethan Coen directing and co-writing the script with his wife Tricia Cooke. There’s an interesting story about their unconventional relationship that one can easily check on the internet.

A brief description of this one-brother effort is a lesbian road trip in which two young women, the libidinous Jamie (Margaret Qualley) and sexually uptight Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan), travel from Philadelphia to Tallahassee.

They rent a “drive-away” car that needs to be delivered to where they are going. One of the highlights just might be the encounter with rental agent Curlie (the amusing Bill Camp) who runs a dubious establishment.

Jamie’s just had a bitter breakup with Sukie (Beanie Feldstein), a Philadelphia cop who shows up later in an amusing confrontation with two thugs in pursuit of her ex-lover and Marian.

The road trip is an excuse for Jamie, who speaks with a hillbilly Southern accent, to frequent every lesbian dive bar on their journey. What the girls don’t know is that they were given the wrong car which contains a mysterious briefcase and hatbox.

A nasty crime boss known as The Chief (Colman Domingo) has tasked two lunkhead goons, the loquacious Arliss (Joey Slotnick) and ineptly trigger-happy Flint (C.J. Wilson), to retrieve the contents of the drive-away Dodge Aries.

The closet lesbian Marian, a bookworm avidly reading Henry James novels, eventually loses her inhibitions. Matt Damon shows up as Senator Channel, who has an interest in the briefcase, and Sukie arrives on the scene to get rid of an annoying small dog Jamie left behind.

During the trip to Florida, the girls have a blowout on the highway. Maybe the flat tire is symbolic, as the air goes out of “Drive-Away Dolls” long before the final destination.

While “Drive-Away Dolls” may be offbeat (with the help of some psychedelic interludes), any hope for a zany screwball comedy never fully materializes as one would wish for a film with an ostensible Coen knack.

TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL RETURNS

The TCM Classic Film Festival returns to Hollywood for its usual four-day extravaganza of a wide range of programming topics beginning on Thursday, April 18. Festival attendees also get the chance to attend “meet and greets” with TCM guests and enjoy panel discussions.

The central theme is “Most Wanted: Crime and Justice in Film.” While the film schedule is only partially available, the 50th anniversary presentation of “Chinatown,” a neo-noir starring Jack Nicholson’s private eye embroiled in a political corruption coverup and murder investigation, fits the theme.

In addition to the classic venue of the Chinese Theatre for screenings, TCM will be celebrating its 15th annual Classic Film Festival by returning to one of its original homes in the beautifully restored and beloved Egyptian Theatre.

In partnership with the American Cinematheque and owned by Netflix, the Egyptian is capable of screening digital cinema, 35mm and 70mm film, and nitrate prints. The theater will host revealing conversations as TCM hosts and notable guests get a chance to this glorious temple of cinema.

TCM is pleased to announce two of the confirmed screenings at the Egyptian will be a nitrate 35mm print of 1950’s “Annie Get Your Gun,” as well as a new 70mm print of “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962).

The Festival will open in a red carpet gala event with the 30th anniversary screening of the classic neo-noir “Pulp Fiction,” and two-time Academy Award-nominee, Golden Globe and Emmy winner John Travolta will be in attendance.

“Pulp Fiction” is described by Ben Mankiewicz, TCM Primetime Anchor and Official Host of the Festival, as “Quentin Tarantino’s magnum opus and the beginning of a well-deserved comeback for John Travolta.”

Among the announced films, Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller “North by Northwest” (1959) fits the theme. In this case, the most wanted person is Cary Grant’s debonaire advertising executive forced to run for his life after being mistaken for a secret agent.

In a case of mistaken identity, Grant’s Roger Thornhill is thought to be a man by the name of George Kaplan by James Mason’s foreign spy Philip Vandamm and his henchman Leonard (Martin Landau).

While the bad guys try to eliminate Thornhill, circumstances lead the advertising man to be framed for murder. On the run from the police, Thornhill manages to board a train to Chicago where he meets Eva Marie Saint’s beautiful blonde, Eve Kendall, who helps him dodge the authorities.

Is there more to Eve than what appears to be? A dramatic escape at the top of Mt. Rushmore is breathtaking. “North by Northwest” is ranked among the greatest American films of all time by the prestigious American Film Institute, a well-deserved accolade.

More exciting news about the 2024 TCM Classic Film Festival will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead.

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

Gwendolen van Wyk (Viola/Cesario) and Dakota Laiwa McKay (Orsino) in the Mendocino College production of Twelfth Night, the musical. Photo by Scott Spears.

UKIAH, Calif. — The Mendocino College Theatre Arts Department will present the musical adaptation of “Twelfth Night” this month in Mendocino College’s Center Theatre on the Ukiah Campus.

Originally produced by the Public Theatre in New York City in 2016, this joyous jazz-funk musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s beloved comedy “Twelfth Night” is set in a modern world inspired by the music and culture of New Orleans.

This musical comedy about love and mistaken identities will run for two weekends only March 7 to 17 in the Mendocino College Center Theatre.

Conceived by Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub, with music and lyrics by Shaina Taub, the play features a large multi-generational cast of performers. The show features an onstage New Orleans-style jazz-funk band.

“It will be an extraordinary spectacle that will make your heart sing,” said Director Reid Edelman.

The production is appropriate for all audiences ages 11 and older.

With musical direction by Janice Hawthorne Timm, original choreography by Eryn-Schon-Brunner, and vocal direction by Marilyn Simpson, the production will feature costumes and scenery created by students in Mendocino College’s CTE program in technical theater under the direction of faculty & staff members Steve Decker, Kathy Dingman-Katz, and David Wolf.

The associate music director is Charlie Seltzer and alumna Shianne Robertson is the costume design assistant. Sarah Jansen is the production Stage Manager. The assistant stage manager is Phaedra Swearengin.

The talented cast features 23 actors and singers and eight onstage musicians, including many students and alumni of the Theatre Arts Department’s Conservatory Cohort ensemble. Conservatory alums Rickie Emilie Farah and Dakota Laiwa McKay play Countess Olivia and Duke Orsino, the two royal patrons of the realm of Illyria where the action unfolds.

The plot thickens when Viola (played by college theatre alumna Gwendolen van Wyk) and her twin brother Sebastian (played by local musician Julian Sterling) are separated in a shipwreck.

Viola comes to Ilyria and decides to disguise herself as a male in order to obtain a job in Orsino’s court. When Orsino sends Viola, now disguised as Cesario, to woo Olivia on his behalf, Olivia falls in love with Cesraio. Meanwhile, Viola has fallen in love with Orsino, creating a romantic love triangle which drives the plot.

When Sebastian too washes up on the shores of Illyria, looking identical to Cesario, a hilarious comedy of mistaken identities ensues.

The show also features theater alum Charm Kilbane as the pirate Antonio who rescues Sebastian and falls in love with him. Feste the clown (played by theater major Heidi Peterman) holds the antics together with her humorous jests and musical wit.

The subplot involves a prank executed by Olivia’s uncle Sir Toby Belch (played by theater major Eduardo Lalo Torres) and housemaid Maria (played by theater major Jasmine Norris) in which Olivia’s pompous butler Malvolio (played by Carlo Amora-Mora) becomes hilariously unhinged.

Supporting roles also include Schuyler Marcier as Belch’s friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Percival Knutson as the groundskeeper Fabian, and a wide array of professional local musicians, actors and several delightfully talented children.

The cast also includes Les Clow, Hannah Hinrichs, Shianne Robertson, Gina Henebury, Laura Henebury, Esteban Orozco, Tommy Thurston, K.L. Whiterock, Apollo Anderson, Cora Brunner, Margot Dowdney, Prema Sophia Peralta and Owen Sapien.

The stage band features music directors Janice Timm and Charlie Seltzer as well as Joe Swearengin (percussion), Michael Charnes (guitar), Jean-François Buy (Bass), Vicente Dominguez (Trombone), Kobi Hasunuma (trumpet) and Alejandro Dominguez (Saxophone).

Twelfth Night will have a “pay what you wish preview” on Thursday, March 7. Opening night is Friday March 8. Opening night will include a free gala reception starting one hour before the show.

The performance on Saturday, March 9 benefits the Mendocino College Foundation and student scholarships. A free glass of wine is included with the ticket price for this performance.

Following the opening weekend, additional performances are Thursday, March 14, Friday, March 15, and Saturday, March 16, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, March 17 at 2 p.m.

Tickets cost $20 general, $15 students and seniors, and are available at the Mendocino Book Company, online at www.ArtsMendocino.org and at the door as available.

The performance on Thursday, March 14, is a special discount night, with all tickets costing only $10. Audiences are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance.

For information, call 707-468-3172 or visit http://www.mendocino.edu/the-arts/theatre.

CRESCENT CITY, Calif. — Redwood Parks Conservancy, California State Parks and the National Park Service announced that Lauren Godla of Gasquet, California, and Jenny Hersh of Princeton, Massachusetts, have been selected as Redwood National & State Parks’ Spring 2024 artists-in-residence.

Beginning in April, Godla and Hersh will spend one month creating artworks surrounded and inspired by the incredible landscapes of Redwood National & State Parks.

Stay tuned for updates on public presentations from the artists over the course of their residency.

Lauren Godla. Courtesy photo.

Lauren Godla is a dance artist, director and educator based out of Gasquet. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in exercise biology and a minor in dance from UC Davis in 2012 and spent the better part of the following decade living and working in the Bay Area.

She co-directed and performed for FloorPlay Dance Comedy, choreographed for Theater Bay Area award-winning productions, and toured and performed nationally with BANDALOOP during her time in the Bay.

In 2020 she moved home to Del Norte County and in 2021 she founded DiRT & Glitter, an environmental art organization that produces site-specific productions. Her dance film “Drop” was included in the 2021 San Francisco Exhibition Showcase “Three Turns” and her dance film “Two Suns” debuted in the 2022 San Francisco Dance Film Festival.

She is currently serving as the artistic director for DiRT & Glitter and working on a collaborative dance film project to celebrate the Klamath Dam removal process through funding awarded by the Upstate California Creative Corps.

Her work aims to inspire connections, honor the body as part of our living planet, and explore our inner and outer wilderness. Learn more about Lauren Godla and her work on Instagram @laurengodla @dirtandglitterco or visit dirtandglitter.org.

Jenny Hersh. Courtesy photo.

Jenny Hersh is an artist and educator with roots in the East Coast but always on the move to wherever art, community and teaching take her. While she has a background in sculpture and printmaking, she is currently deepening her practice of hand cut paper works.

She is excited to explore parallels between the delicate and striking medium of cut paper and the fragile and awe inspiring ecosystems in the Redwoods National and State Parks. Hersh is looking forward to connecting with the land and learning from the communities that protect, revere and intertwine their lives with the natural world.

Learn more about Jenny Hersh and her work on Instagram @hershjenny or visit jennyhersh.com.

To learn more about Redwood National & State Parks’s artist-in-residence program, visit https://www.nps.gov/redw/getinvolved/artist-in-residence.htm.

Redwood Parks Conservancy supports events and programs, coordinates volunteers, raises funds, and helps to welcome over one million visitors annually to Redwood National and State Parks. Learn more at www.redwoodparksconservancy.org.

The water towers near Middletown, California, that will be transformed by the “Water Basket” project. Photo courtesy of the Middletown Art Center.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — The Middletown Rancheria, Callayomi Water District, and the Middletown Art Center are inviting Middletown area residents and participants of the Middletown Area Town Hall, or MATH, to join the jury for the Water Basket Project design selection.

They are seeking two representatives from MATH attendees and two2 representatives from the Middletown area public.

In the event that there are more qualified candidates than available slots, a blind selection will take place. Additionally, up to two additional community seats may be added if the number of interested participants exceeds 20.

The jury will be tasked with selecting two to four designs for each tank to move to the public input stage. Approximately 20 designs have been submitted.

To be considered for the jury process, please submit a brief statement explaining why you believe you would be a good fit for this task. Include your name, address, phone number, and email, and either email it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or drop off your statement and contact information in a sealed envelope at the Middletown Art Center, located at 21456 Highway 175.

The jurying process will take place in mid-March, on a date and time convenient for all seated jurors at the Middletown Art Center. The exact date and time are to be determined but will likely be in the late afternoon or evening.

Selected designs for each tank will be available for public viewing and input in April both prior to and after the MATH meeting, and for two weeks at the Callayomi Water District Office, the Tribal Office, and the Middletown Art Center. Exact dates will be announced.

This call for jurors aims to find a design that will resonate with the community within the context of the project's goals. For more information on the project and design criteria, please visit https://middletownartcenter.org/water-basket.html.

For inquiries or further information, please contact the Middletown Art Center at 707-355-4465 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Middletown Art Center is a Lake County nonprofit dedicated to engaging the public in art making, art education, and art appreciation. Through exhibitions, performances, workshops, and community events, the Art Center provides a platform for diverse voices and perspectives, striving to create an inclusive and accessible space for all.

To learn more and donate to support other MAC arts and cultural programs visit middletownartcenter.org or call 707-809-8118. The MAC is located at 21456 Highway 175 in Middletown.














‘UPGRADED’ Rated R

An original movie on Amazon Prime, “Upgraded” is billed as a romantic comedy, and yet, thematically it also has much in common with “The Devil Wears Prada” as parallels exist where young assistants labor for diabolical bosses.

Beyond Meryl Streep’s despotic fashion editor Miranda Priestly’s treatment of Anne Hathaway’s beleaguered assistant, Melanie Griffith’s struggling secretary taking advantage of her boss in 1988’s “Working Girl” would appear to offer thematic inspiration as well.

“Upgraded” benefits enormously from the very likable central character of Ana Santos (Camila Mendes), an auction house assistant with a master’s degree in art history who dreams of opening up an art gallery.

Meanwhile, Ana is up to her neck in credit card debt and is bunking at her sister Vivian’s (Aimee Carrero) cramped studio apartment that is shared with Vivian’s fiancé Ronnie (Andrew Schulz), a stereotypical Brooklynite who wishes Ana would go back to Florida.

Anxious to climb the corporate ladder at the upscale Erwin auction house, Ana must contend with autocratic boss Claire (Marisa Tomei) who treats underlings with unbelievably callous disdain.

Even worse for Ana is the condescension from Claire’s malicious personal assistants, Suzette (Rachel Matthews) and Renee (Fola Evans-Akingbola), both of whom have the haughty attitude of runway models.

Stepping up to save her boss from embarrassment at an auction, Ana is invited to join Claire and the assistants on a spontaneous business trip to London. With no thanks to her employer, Ana scores a first-class upgrade.

While hanging out in the airline’s private lounge, Ana encounters a handsome Brit traveler, Will (Archie Renaux), and in meet-cute fashion they flirt during the flight after ending up as seatmates.

During the course of the flight, Ana gives the impression that she holds an executive position at the auction house, which obviously leads to complications. It’s bad enough she’s relegated to staying at a seedy hotel.

Ana’s fortunes rise when she meets Will’s actress mother Catherine (Lena Olin), who is planning to have her collection of exquisite art put up for auction and wants Ana to handle the details.

“Upgraded” finds its humor in the challenges for Ana as the lowly assistant gamely tries to keep up a very tenuous charade. A few twists and turns add to the charm of this film.

TRUE CRIME STORIES ON PEACOCK

During the pandemic lockdown, Australian author Liane Moriarty listened to true-crime podcasts which inspired her latest best-selling novel “Apples Never Fall,” leading to an adaptation for a limited series to premiere in March on Peacock.

The native of Sydney, Australia found her New York Times best sellers “Big Little Lies” and “Nine Perfect Strangers” adapted into successful series for HBO and Hulu, respectively.

“Apples Never Fall” centers on the seemingly picture-perfect Delaney family. Former tennis coaches Stan (Sam Neill) and Joy (Annette Bening) have sold their successful tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives.

While they look forward to spending time with their four adult children (Jake Lacy, Alison Brie, Conor Merrigan-Turner and Essie Randles), everything changes when a wounded young woman knocks on Joy and Stan’s door, bringing the excitement they have been missing.

According to the novel, the four grown children, who all endured paternal discipline of being coached to professional tennis glory, have settled into lives far removed from sports, where they found either their own successes or failures.

Tension aside from an apparent dysfunctional household, when Joy suddenly disappears, the children are forced to re-examine their parents’ so-called perfect marriage as their family’s darkest secrets begin to surface.

Naturally, in such cases of disappearance, suspicion falls upon the spouse. An interesting statistic out of Australia, is that on average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. How things turn out in “Apples Never Fall” will be left to be revealed in the series.

True crime manifests itself in the Peacock documentary “Pathological: The Lies of Joran van der Sloot,” a story told through rare interviews with victims’ family members, eyewitnesses and experts on the criminal mind.

The documentary reveals new insights into how Joran van der Sloot’s lifelong pattern of violence and pathological lying leads to the deaths of two young women that attracted pervasive media attention.

Few killers have ever murdered again after they became famous for another killing, but on the fifth anniversary of Natalee Holloway’s disappearance, Joran murders 21-year-old Stephany Flores in Peru.

Hauntingly, Joran’s trip to Peru is financed by money he extorted from Natalee Holloway’s mother, Beth, after falsely promising to reveal where to locate Natalee’s body for a price.

In 2023, 18 years after Natalee’s vanishing, Beth Holloway finally gets her day in court with Joran, who admits for the first time that he murdered her daughter.

The Dutch native’s admission brings some long-sought comfort to Natalee’s family, but Joran’s history of deceit and manipulation leads some to question the details in his latest story. The documentary looks to unpack some of the details.

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



‘MADAME WEB’ Rated PG-13

A reasonable judgment about a film’s possible appeal may be discerned from watching a trailer. After all, the studio releasing the movie has invested heavily in the production and hopes for a box office win.

In the case of “Madame Web,” the trailer offers little incentive to rush to a theater. A singer wails “What do you want from me?” The thought comes to mind that the recurring tone of the lyrics couldn’t be more irritating.

The idea of Dakota Johnson in the role of Cassie Webb to become a superhero is not off-putting on its own. If anything, Johnson’s Cassie is failed by a script that too often makes little sense.

The story begins with a flashback to the Amazon jungle in 1973 when Cassie’s pregnant mother Constance (Kerry Bishe) is a scientist doing research into rare spiders. Her guide, Ezekial Sims (Tahar Rahim), has his own agenda.

Tragedy strikes when Cassandra’s death occurs just about when she gives birth to Cassie. With her mother bitten by a mystical spider, Cassie develops paranormal powers as an adult.

Thirty years later, Cassie is a New York paramedic, working alongside her best friend Ben Parker (Adam Scott). If Ben’s last name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the future uncle to Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man.

A work-related accident causes Cassie to realize her hidden superpower of being able to see into the near future. Falling into the East River is a near-death experience that triggers clairvoyant powers.

Meanwhile, Ezekiel is on a hunt for three teenage girls in New York. It has something to do with Cassie having visions that Julia (Sydney Sweeney), Mattie (Celeste O’Connor), and Anya (Isebela Merced) are marked for death.

A feasible bet to make is that “Madame Web,” for all its spider-related wish fulfillment, does not seem destined for another superhero franchise. Lacking any psychic powers, I am unwilling to place a wager because anything can happen in show business.

You may get the idea that Dakota Johnson didn’t want to be in this movie, and if so, a sequel would be nothing more than another payday. Sadly, studios have no aversion to turning out an inferior product to cash in with a sequel.

If there is going to be another arachnid-themed installment, the genre would be best served by another Tom Holland turn as the web-slinging Spider-Man, and the next chapter is reportedly in the works.

Depending on how far the appetite for more Spider-Man films exist, it wouldn’t take much effort to make a connection between Madame Web and Peter Parker/Spider-Man. A strong bond exists between Cassie and Ben Parker, but then Ben gets killed during a robbery, as we already know.

One can only speculate on the future of Sony Pictures so-called “Spider-Verse,” and this reviewer has neither the bandwidth nor desire to figure out anything more than “Madame Web” lacks merit for a sequel.





‘LAND OF BAD’ Rated R

“Land of Bad” is a high-octane action picture of a daring military operation that is almost certain to have far more public appeal than it does with many critics tired of the genre.

The awkward title reflects the title card introduction of a Southeast Asia island in the Sulu Sea that is home to “violent extremist groups” that are at war with us but we just don’t know it.

A rescue mission by a quartet of Special Forces to extract a CIA asset being held hostage by terrorists will undoubtedly discover that the war will come at them hard and fast.

Liam Hemsworth’s Sergeant J.J. “Playboy” Kinney is not battle-tested when he joins the team at the last-minute to handle communications with Sergeant Eddie “Reaper” Grimm (Russell Crowe), who is the drone pilot tracking the squad’s moves and launching missiles when needed.

Playboy’s teammates consist of tough, hardened veteran comrades, including Milo Ventimiglia’s Captain John “Sugar” Sweet, Luke Hemsworth’s Sergeant Abel, and Ricky Whittle’s Bishop.

The bad guys are personified by Islamic terrorist Hashimi (Robert Rabiah), the sadistic leader of Abu Sayyaf radical group who decapitates a woman in front of her husband, in a move designed to terrorize other innocent victims.

Getting caught up in the effort to save the village people, the team ends up in a merciless firefight where it appears that Playboy is the only survivor who then flees into the jungle while being chased by heavily armed thugs.

On the run, Playboy relies on Reaper to guide him to a spot for a helicopter rescue, but things are hardly that simple. At the Air Force base in Nevada, Reaper is so committed to the mission that he risks insubordination by arguing with an arrogant superior officer.

“Land of Bad” belongs to Hemsworth for his battlefield heroics and to Crowe for his cocky, amusing self-confidence and unwavering commitment to his job, spending his time mainly confined to a chair staring at a screen.

Easily dismissed as formulaic, “Land of Bad” is nevertheless replete with thrilling, tense action sequences for action fans to enjoy.

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

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