Sunday, 24 September 2023

Arts & Life

MIDDLETOWN – On Friday, March 7 and Saturday, March 8 at 7:30 p.m., the Coyote Film Festival will screen the wonderful film “Beyond the Call” at the Calpine Geothermal Visitors Center and host special guest Director Adrian Belic for an audience question-and-answer session after the screening.

From the brothers behind the Academy Award-nominated feature documentary “Genghis Blues” comes the next great journey.

In an Indiana Jones-meets-Mother Teresa adventure, three middle-aged men, former soldiers and modern-day knights, travel the world delivering life-saving humanitarian aid directly into the hands of civilians and doctors in some of the most dangerous yet beautiful places on Earth, the front lines of war.

Ed Artis, Jim Laws and Walt Ratterman are self-styled Knights of Malta, and in 1995, they formed Knightsbridge International, a unique humanitarian aid organization, whose motto is "High Adventure and Service to Humanity."

Artis explains: "We're not there to change anybody's politics, we're not in the God business and we pay our own way."

Their specialty is going where death from land-mines, bullets or bombs is as frequent as death from hunger, disease or the elements.

As Laws tells it simply, "We do what we can, when we can, because we can."

Their personal convictions and courage drive them to places such as Afghanistan, Albania, Chechnya, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Rwanda and the southern Philippines, often when few if any other humanitarian aid organizations are around. The camera follows Artis, Laws and Ratterman as they take us on a journey into the heart of humanity and the soul of courage.

“We are thrilled to bring such a great feature film to Lake County,” said Karen Turcotte director of the event.

“This event is made more special by the addition of our amazing guest director, Adrian Belic,” continued Turcotte, “and to have the Calpine Geothermal Visitors Center to show this film is a wonderful partnership for us and South Lake County. I know our audience will enjoy meeting Adrian and finding out how he manages to travel in exotic and dangerous places while making a film.”

Coyote Film Festival shows awardwinning independent short films during the summer months at Langtry Estate and Vineyards.

“This particular event will give more people an opportunity to see what Coyote is all about. We pride ourselves in bringing amazing guest filmmakers who come away with admiration of Lake County and the wonderfully dedicated audience who enjoy independent film.”

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the film will begin at 7:45 p.m. Coyote opens each festival with animation and this time it is “Duct Tape and Cover” which has been winning awards in the independent film festival circuit throughout this past year.

The total program runs for approximately 90 minutes. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children.

There will be concessions available including the fresh made Coyote Popcorn that has become a sought after staple to the events.

Coyote Film Festival is the fundraising arm of EcoArts of Lake County and supports not only the Film Festival but also the EcoArts: Lake County Sculpture Walk at the Middletown County Trailside Park.

EcoArts is a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to bringing arts opportunities to the residents and visitors of Lake County.

For more information visit


SEMI-PRO (Rated R)

Funnyman Will Ferrell has developed a comedic persona that elevates him barely above the lazy, irresponsible man-child who is contradictorily both lovable and arrogant. This is an act he has perfected as Ron Burgundy, the TV anchorman with an inflated ego, as well as in a succession of various sports figures. He’s done his part to decimate figure skating, soccer, and NASCAR racing. A one-man wrecking crew, Ferrell has cultivated a legion of fans who may even cheer his more mediocre work.

Arguably, “Semi-Pro” is not in the major league status of “Talladega Nights,” where his race car driver Ricky Bobby was the obnoxiously funny showoff in competition with “Borat’s” Sacha Baron Cohen. This time, Ferrell’s Jackie Moon is a one-man conglomerate in the last year of the American Basketball Association’s existence. He’s the owner, coach and power forward for the fictional Flint (Michigan) Tropics, a team defined by its outlaw flair and sensational showmanship. Sporting an afro hairdo and the gaudy clothes of the 1970s, Jackie Moon is coasting on the residuals of his big one-hit song “Love Me Sexy.”

The film opens with Jackie Moon crooning his salacious hit song, which serves the purpose of establishing his character as the kind of outrageously brash self-promoter whose unpredictable behavior is certain to keep everyone on edge.

As the basketball season gets under way during America’s bicentennial year, Jackie soon learns that the ABA is going to be disbanded, and that only four teams will be absorbed into the more profitable and dominant NBA. A woeful team lacking any real talent, the Flint Tropics are not destined to be one of the teams merged into the NBA. But that won’t stop Jackie from pulling every stunt in the book.

The Tropics have one star player, the flamboyant Clarence “Downtown” Withers (Andre Benjamin), who changes his name with frequency, finally settling on Coffee Black as his moniker. He may be good, but he can’t carry a team full of league rejects.

To change his fortunes, Jackie trades the team’s washing machine for former NBA benchwarmer Ed Monix (Woody Harrelson), a troubled player with real talent if he can overcome constant knee trouble and an unhealthy attraction to his old flame Lynn (Maura Tierney) who’s now with someone else.

Jackie, who seems modeled upon legendary baseball showman Bill Veeck and daredevil Evel Knievel, is constantly thinking of marketing ploys, some of which are manifestly stupid or dangerous.

To get fans in the seats, he offers free corn dogs to all ticket holders if the team scores 125 points, and then does his best to sabotage his teammates. Another stunt is offering an oversized $10,000 check to a spectator who makes a basket at a distance greater than half-court. When a homeless stoner (Jackie Earle Haley) sinks the ball, Jackie cooks up little tricks to avoid the payoff. Unwisely, Jackie also wrestles a bear in another stunt that goes horribly wrong.

“Semi-Pro” is full of caricatures of athletes, but not all of them come across as pure comedic figures. To be sure, Jackie Moon is all over the map as a buffoon, flailing wildly at the impossible task of putting together a championship caliber team. On the other hand, Monix and Coffee Black become the underdog heroes who are destined to succeed in a feel-good sports story, because after all that’s what you have to expect from teammates on the verge of reaching the comeback status.

The funniest characters are not even on the basketball court, turning up instead in the broadcast booth. Will Arnett’s Lou Redwood, a former player, is the color commentator with a colorful, and often profane, manner. His partner is Dick Pepperfield (Andrew Daly), more mild-mannered but equally adept at tossing sarcastic dialogue. When announcing the game, these two hurl insults at each other, but more often they snipe at the team and its fans. These guys are so funny that you get the sense they could easily be adlibbing their dialogue.

Feeling often like an improvised script, “Semi-Pro” may not be the best Will Ferrell comedic vehicle, but it certainly beats films like “Kicking and Screaming” and “A Night at the Roxbury.” Though not consistently shooting three-pointers, Ferrell hits the mark often enough with his silliness to make this film fun for anyone enjoying this type of comedy. Indeed, there are plenty of laughs.


Horror films take on a life of their own when going into DVD release. “Automaton Transfusion” is a shockingly grisly zombie horror flick that follows three teens brazen enough to fight back a town full of swarming zombies.

Maybe you caught this film at Screamfest 2006, but if not, now’s your chance to load up on extremes of gore and bloodshed. “Awake” allows one to experience the pain and terror of “anesthetic awareness,” which happens when a man remains conscious but paralyzed throughout an operation and is forced to endure excruciating pain.

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


LAKEPORT – The Feb. 24 "Opera to Pops" concert presented by Clear Lake Performing Arts filled virtually all the seats at the newly-reopened Soper-Reese Theater, with hometown hero William "Bill" Pickersgill leading the way to the packed house.

Pickersgill, raised in Lake County and a graduate of Clear Lake High School, led his fellow San Francisco Opera members Andrew Truett and Suzanne Lustgarten in a program perfectly chosen to spotlight the considerable talents of all three.

The first half featured arias from eight operatic favorites starting with all three singing “Libiamo” from Verdi's heroic “La Traviata,” with the stage presence of each performer strong enough to lead the audience through the action.

Andrew "Andy" Truett and Suzanne Lustgarten who in real life are husband and wife shared the spotlight, amid obvious lovers differences, in a scene from Donizetti's “Elsir d'amore,” while Lustgarten followed with the flamboyant Magda's solo from Puccini's “La Rondine.”

Accompaniment was provided by Cesar Cancino, whose musical career is as extensive and varied as that of the singers, having toured North America, Europe and Mexico as pianist, conductor and accompanist to many of the greats of the music world. His hands on the keyboard of the grand piano produced some of the finest sounds yet heard in the redesigned venue.

Au Fond du Temple Saint” from Bizet's “The Pearl Fishers” featured Pickersgill as Zurga and Truett as his friend and follower Nadir as they pledge to renounce their common love interest and remain loyal to one another, while Pickersgill and Lustgarten were a perfectly charming twosome in singing “La ci Darem la Mano” from Mozart's “Don Giovanni.”

Pickersgill's remarkable baritone was featured at it's best in his solo “Pierrot's Tanz Lied” from “Die tote Stadt” by Korngold, while Lustgarten and Truett returned to share the leads in excerpts from “La Boheme” by Puccini, culminating with a stage left exit while completing the song. The audience responded with thunderous applause.

During the hour-long operatic portion of the program the singers switched languages effortlessly from Italian to Spanish to German. But after intermission they switched to all-English with selections mostly drawn from Broadway hits, including “South Pacific,” “West Side Story” and “Carousel.”

Pickersgill delivered a memorable Don Quixote with three songs from 'Man of La Mancha” while Lustgarten exhibited exuberant charm in her “I Could Have Danced All Night” solo from “My Fair Lady.” Truett also used his impeccable tenor voice to great effect in singing "Climb every Mountain" from the "Sound of Music" by Rodgers and Hammerstein. All three singers joined in the finale "Make our Garden Grow" from Leonard Bernstein's "Candide."

Continuing standing applause from the audience resulted in a curtain call in which the three singers delivered a comic routine of "O Solo Mio" while continually upstaging one another, much to the delight of the audience as well as to the performers who were clearly having as much fun as their fans.

This was the first pure musical presentation at the Soper-Reese since the theater reopened its doors a month ago.

Joan Holman, who served as Mistress of Ceremonies, reminded the audience that the play "The Solid Gold Cadillac" will open in the theater in two weeks. She is one of the stars of the show.

The next program of Clear Lake Performing Arts will be on Sunday, March 30, when world-renowned pianist Tien Hsieh returns to Lake County for a 3 p.m. concert at Galilee Lutheran Church on Soda Bay Road in Kelseyville. Concert information may be obtained by calling 279-0877.


CLEARLAKE – The open mic at the Java Express will be returning to Clearlake on March 14.


As reported last year, ASCAP (the same nice folks who threatened to sue the Girl Scouts over songs in their Campfire Book) shut down the popular venue unless they paid $388 per year for a license. There is no charge to attend and no alcohol sold at this event. 


After reading about the demise of this community gathering spot, two DJ’s from KFOG radio in the Bay Area contacted Java Express’ owner and offered to pay the license fee for two years. A regular customer reestablished contact with ASCAP and did the paperwork.


All that is left to do is pass the word that this second Friday of the month tradition continues.

The show starts at 7 p.m. on 14624 Lakeshore Drive.


Open mic welcomes lightly amplified musicians, poets, standup comedians, card tricks ... Animal acts or kickboxing demos are discouraged. Karaoke singers will be beaten with guitar cases.


Sign up early or call 995-1065 to be on the program.


LAKEPORT – The publication of Steve Bartholomew's latest novel, "Chapel Perilous" will be celebrated on Friday, March 7 at Watershed Books in Lakeport.

Writing of his life's journey, Bartholomew states, "Experience as a social worker taught me that there is no such thing as an ordinary human being."

He is the author of "The Terrorist Plot at Gopherville," which he says is "sure to get him into trouble."

"Chapel Perilous," he said, is an exploration of dangerous states of mind.

Bartholomew will answer questions about his creative and publishing process beginning at 3:30 p.m.

Watershed Books is located at 305 N. Main St.


LAKEPORT – Perhaps you have attended one of the many functions during the phase one construction of the Soper-Reese Community Theater.

Possibly you or your organization has an interest in renting the theater for an event. Maybe you would just like to walk through and see the progress made toward the final phase of a restored downtown landmark into a working professional theater venue.

Whatever the category, House Manager Stephen Stetzer would like to show you around.

Stetzer and his crew are in and out of the theater almost on a daily basis. Albeit interim, the theater is open with events already in place.

If you would like to tour the theater, contact Stetzer at 527-5297.

The theater is located at 275 S. Main St.


Upcoming Calendar

09.24.2023 11:00 am - 3:00 pm
Acme Foundation 25th anniversary celebration
09.26.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
09.27.2023 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Town hall on homelessness
09.28.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
09.30.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
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

Mini Calendar



Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



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