Monday, 20 May 2024

Arts & Life


Finally, some good news when it comes to a children’s movie that adults may find equally enjoyable. Based on the beloved best-selling series of books, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a fantasy adventure that reveals a hidden, mysterious world around us, one that is found in an area surrounding an old Victorian home in rural New England. The bucolic setting alone suggests the possibility of magical creatures, many of them downright malevolent and bent on visiting destruction on humans unfortunate enough to discover their presence.

You wouldn’t know if from the monsters, goblins and assorted not-so-enchanting creatures, but Spiderwick is an unusual celebration of family bonds. The Grace family finds itself tested by their own conflicts, especially since the recently separated mother Helen (Mary-Louise Parker) decides to uproot the kids from the comfort zone of New York, moving into the isolated, dilapidated Spiderwick Estate. Jared and his brother Simon (both played by Freddie Highmore) and older sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger) confront the challenges of a new environment.

The rebellious Jared is the most resentful and bitter, remaining anxious to reunite with his mythical good-guy father. From the very moment they move into the aging Victorian home, strange disappearances and accidents start happening.

More precocious than his studious brother, Jared starts poking around the old house, discovering quickly that magical things are truly happening. Poking into an old chest, he stumbles upon a strange and potentially dangerous book written by his great, great-uncle Arthur Spiderwick. The eponymous “Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You” reveals what the naturalist discovered when he uncovered a concealed faerie world.

Finding the book turns out to be a Pandora’s box that unleashes an army of goblins and trolls in the service of the crafty, evil ogre Mulgarath (Nick Nolte, looking something like his infamous mug shot), who is desperate to get his hands on the Field Guide because he can use it to destroy his adversaries.

Meanwhile, Jared discovers that not all creatures pose a hostile, ominous threat. One of them lives in the walls of the manor, and he becomes agitated when Jared dares to open the Field Guide after ignoring the portentous warning on its cover.

Thimbletack (voiced by Martin Short) is a scampering imp known as a brownie. Yet, upon being angered, he turns into a boggart, who can only be placated by guzzling honey from a squeeze bottle. Even though his disposition can be a bit uneven, Thimbletack becomes an invaluable ally in the fight against the dangerous goblins.

Another indispensable collaborator is the wily but friendly hobgoblin named Hogsqueal (voiced by Seth Rogen), who has an odd taste for birds and a knack for spitting in the eyes of the children so that they can actually see the invisible creatures.

As the inquisitive siblings are increasingly drawn into conflict with the monstrous creatures while mom is at work, the confrontation escalates to the point that they need to enlist some help. Thus, Mallory and Jared set out on a mission to find great-aunt Lucinda (Joan Plowright), who long ago was institutionalized because she uncovered the hidden faerie world as she watched her father Arthur construct his “how-to manual.” Fortunately, Lucinda remains lucid enough to provide some useful guidance.

Not surprisingly, Spiderwick exploits its marvelously over-the-top fantasy adventure by realizing a wide range of combative monsters. While many of them look like overgrown toads or reptiles, the nightmarish creatures are decently scary but not overtly frightening. Thus, the violent action that arises from the central front of a pitched battle waged inside the Victorian home does not come across as so scary that it is offensive to the film’s core value of family entertainment. Still, it would seem unrealistic, indeed foolish, to recommend this film for the very young.

The Spiderwick Chronicles, for the most part, inhabits an imaginative world where the kids undertake the serious work of coping with the strange phenomena of goblins and griffins, hobgoblins and trolls, and things that take odd shapes. Freddie Highmore and Sarah Bolger, as the intrepid and plucky siblings, create a rooting interest in their exploits.


More and more, Asian horror films are making their way to the DVD market in the United States. A sleeper hit on the film festival circuit, Nightmare Detective is a terrifying thriller that is driven by the suggestion that suicidal impulses abound.

A young detective investigates a mysterious man who invades his victims’ dreams, convincing them to kill themselves in real life.

Eventually, the detective (Japanese pop singer Hitomi) pursues the killer into the dreams themselves, facing her own darkest fears.

Nightmare Detective weaves a hypnotic narrative that explores terror too sinister and imagery too shocking for the waking world.

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


From left, Danielle Bettencourt, Jamie Dawson, Kayla Myrick and Polly Johns are the Lower Lake High School winners of the PTSA Reflections art contest held recently. Photo courtesy of Roberta Lyons.

LOWER LAKE – The Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) at Lower Lake High School held a successful “Reflections,” Art Contest recently, with one of the participants, Kayla Myrick, chosen to move on to the State level in the essay category of the contest.

The theme of the contest, presented by the National Parent Teachers Association (PTA) for 2007-08 was: “I Can Make a Difference By.”

Kayla’s winning essay focused on her teachers at Lower Lake High School, how they have influenced her, and made her want to “make a difference,” as they have made a difference in her life.

The Reflections Program is structured for PTAs and PTSAs to recognize students at the local, council, district, state and national levels.

Entries are first judged on the local level, where selected works are chosen to represent the PTSA at the next level. Once entries reach the state level, the state PTA may submit entries on a national level.

The areas of art include: literature, musical composition, photography, visual arts, dance choreography, and film/video production.

Local winners included: LLHS student, Jamie Dawson who took first place in photography with her photo: “Hands Across the World.” Danielle Bettencourt took second place with “When Dreamers Become Champions,” a picture of the LLHS Varsity football players after making the play-offs for the first time in 10 years. Danielle also received third place for her photo: “Makers of Legends.”

Kayla Myrick received first place in the Literature category for: “I Can Make A Difference by Teaching.” Danielle Bettencourt received second and third for: “I Can’t Be Like That,” and “My Return.”

In Visual Arts, first place went to Polly Johns for a pen and colored pencil work entitled: “Peace for Change.”

Local businesses donated prizes to the local winners. Many thanks to these businesses for rewarding the participants in the contest: Wild About Books, Rite Aid, Kevin Ness Jewelers and Toni’s Baking Emporium, Clearlake; Happy Garden Restaurant, Clearlake Oaks; and Radio Shack, Clearlake. PTSA student member, Kate Lyons, chaired the contest.

PTA believes that all children deserve a quality art education and encourages students to pursue artistic expression through participation in its annual Reflections Program. The program offers students the opportunity to create works of art for fun and recognition and involves students from preschool through grade 12.

For more information about the LLHS PTSA, contact Roberta Lyons at (707) 994-2024. The organization is looking for new members and volunteers. It is offering a $200 scholarship to a college bound senior this year and is promoting the escrip fundraiser to fund the scholarship and other activities to benefit Lower Lake High School.

To learn more about escrip, go to If you want to participate in the program by registering your grocery card or Visa, type in the LLHS PTSA group ID number: 6530904 for an easy and safe way to contribute to your child’s education at Lower Lake High School.

The PTSA is also sponsoring an open mike creative reading night at Lower Lake High School on Wednesday, March 12, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the new library.


LAKE COUNTY – Dante DeAmicis's latest feature, “In the Library,” will be on Mediacom TV8 at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7 and Tuesday, Feb. 12.


"In the Library" is a local interview program with a twist.

Guests will be: Steve Elias of KPFZ, our very own listener-supported radio station, soon to be on the air; Carolyn Hawley, concert pianist and composer, artist and writer; Ruth Altman, talking about murals and other forms of community art; and Dennis Chrisp, singer/song writer.


The program has a great balance between information and entertainment. Watch it if you can.


FOOL’S GOLD (Rated PG-13)

Once arrested on a charge of drug possession and resisting arrest, Matthew McConaughey, according to police reports, was naked and playing the bongo drums. Little did anyone realize that he was prepping for a future role in Fool’s Gold, which requires the actor to be bare-chested almost constantly, as if he were entered into a seaside beefcake contest.

For most of the movie, the bronzed hunk looks like a surfer searching for the perfect wave, though he’s mostly in need of a shower and a clean pair of decent clothes.

Fool’s Gold is an appropriate title for the adventure that compels McConaughey’s Finn, an affable treasure hunter, to be obsessed with finding the legendary 18th century Queen’s Dowry, 40 chests of priceless treasure that was lost at sea off the coast of Florida in 1715.

At least, Finn doesn’t end up playing the bongo drums in the nude. Mostly, he’s preoccupied with saving his skin from assorted thugs who think he might just be on to a huge treasure trove.

At the film’s opening, Finn and his Ukrainian accomplice Alfonz (Ewen Bremner) are diving in Caribbean waters when their battered old boat catches fire and sinks. This mishap doesn’t sit well with ruthless local gangster Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart), a hip-hop millionaire with a taste for treasure hunting. The gangster has been financing Finn’s salvage operation, including the boat now destroyed. For starters, Bigg Bunny dispenses his goons to rough up Finn.

Meanwhile, Finn has to contend with some nastiness from his one-time mentor Moe Fitch (Ray Winstone), who is equally determined to find the buried loot.

But the nastiest situation confronting Finn is that on the same day he finds an elusive big clue, he’s due in court for his divorce to Tess (Kate Hudson) to become final.

Finn doesn’t want the marriage to end, but Tess has grown weary from the years of fruitless search for the Queen’s Dowry. Only now he has found a piece of a plate that proves he’s close to locating an untold fortune in gold and jewels.

As a matter of convenience, Tess is working aboard the mega-yacht owned by billionaire Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland), anchored for the time being in the waters off the Florida coast where Finn is pursuing his dream.

Finn maneuvers himself aboard Nigel’s yacht, and, using his roguish charm, convinces the tycoon to join him on the hunt, much to Tess’ consternation. Nigel appears to be roped into this adventure as a cure for boredom, if only to make a shipboard visit from his airhead daughter Gemma (Alexis Dziena) more bearable.

Dimwitted in the extreme, Gemma serves no useful purpose other than eye-candy, seeing how she is constantly parading around in bikinis. For her part, Tess is a stiff character overly dressed for the tropical climate, though she appears once in a black bikini, which seems more like a perfect occasion for a photo opportunity with her shirtless male co-star.

Fool’s Gold spends an inordinate amount of time speculating about the origins of the Queen’s Dowry and where it is likely to be found. One hopes in vain that they will get on with business in haste, but the climactic action takes its time in coming. This film could take a few cues on pacing from National Treasure, in which the revved-up action easily masks any bland exposition.

Meanwhile, the tropical scenery is very attractive and appealing. At this time of year, the clear blue ocean water seems more inviting than ever. Yet, Fool’s Gold is as deceptive as fake shiny objects at the bottom of the sea.

The surface appeal isn’t worth a whole lot, and Fool’s Gold is short on luster.


The poignant, heartwarming family drama The Martian Child didn’t seem to make a big impact at the box office. It may be worth a second look on DVD, particularly if you like impressive performances by talented actors.

John Cusack delivers a touching performance as a recently widowed man who hopes to adopt a fragile young boy who is quirkier than most. The adopted boy believes he’s from Mars and spends much of his time hiding in a large cardboard box.

Assisted by his real-life sister Joan playing his sister, Cusack’s widower embarks on a journey of self-discovery, with a little help also from his quirky friend Amanda Peet. The DVD has the usual deleted scenes, along with a featurette called The Real Martian Child.

Timely for Valentine’s Day, I Could Never Be Your Woman, starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Paul Rudd, arrives on DVD. The package includes three deleted scenes, which is interesting because I don’t remember this film when it was theatrical.

In any case, it’s the charming story of the 40-something Pfeiffer’s television producer finding herself smitten by Rudd’s handsome young actor. Things get complicated when the two lovers confide their true ages.

This could be an autobiographical exercise for director Amy Heckerling, who has written material for audiences many decades younger, as was the case with Clueless.

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



We’re still coping with the post-holiday movie blues, where new films just aren’t that good, and now Valentine’s Day looms on the horizon. That can only mean more formulaic romantic comedies are on the way, and “Over Her Dead Body” is the latest entrant from the date movie factory.

There’s some mildly good news to this situation. If you survived 27 Dresses, chances are you will find Over Her Dead Body more bearable, if only because the romance sparks a few good laughs.

Eva Longoria Parker, famed for her role in Desperate Housewives, is required to do little more than act like an annoying shrew in the role of Kate, the future bride killed on her wedding day by a falling ice sculpture of an angel without wings.

Over Her Dead Body opens as Kate obsesses over every small detail during the chaotic wedding preparations before her accidental death. Her Bridezilla-like attempt to make everything perfect is driving everyone crazy.

The mystery of the pending marriage is that Kate’s fiancé is the placid Henry (Paul Rudd), an easy-going veterinarian who seems ill-matched to such a control freak. In any event, Henry is so traumatized by the loss of his future bride that the story jumps to a year later when Henry is unable to move on with his life. His reclusive state elicits concern from his vivacious sister Chloe (Lindsay Sloane), who determines that he needs permission from the dearly departed Kate to start life anew.

At Chloe’s urging, though skeptical about psychic powers, Henry reluctantly agrees to meet Ashley (Lake Bell), a medium who happens to also run a catering company with her gay best friend Dan (Jason Biggs). The initial reading doesn’t go well, and while remaining more skeptical than ever, Henry is intrigued by Ashley, perhaps because she’s pretty and refuses payment, though not necessarily in that order.

Meanwhile, Chloe does not give up on her brother, deciding that a little harmless subterfuge may be the best approach. She steals Kate’s diary so that Ashley could have some inside information that might convince Henry that her psychic powers deserve a second chance. Ashley, of course, uses the diary’s tidbits to pretend that she’s channeling Kate’s spirit.

The ruse works better than expected, and yet unintended consequences abruptly follow. Kate’s ghost materializes but only to be seen by Ashley. Revealing that she’s not changed in the afterlife, she’s disgruntled and possessive, unable to let go of Henry. Not surprisingly, Kate is upset that Ashley has designs on her former fiancé, and as a result, the ectoplasmic shrew goes on the warpath against her romantic nemesis.

What’s a disturbed ghost to do? The only option is to turn Ashley’s life into a living hell by using her ghostly powers to torment and humiliate. Relentless efforts to sabotage the budding romance between Ashley and Henry are intended to evoke the spirit of screwball romantic comedy, and there are moments when this is executed to humorous satisfaction.

Over Her Dead Body makes a far better showcase for the talents of Paul Rudd and Lake Bell than it does for the titular star. Eva Longoria Parker seems ill-suited for romantic comedy, as her nasty shrewish behavior is more fitting for her TV character. It was also disconcerting to see that her skin color was a strangely orange-brown hue, an unnatural look for a ghostly apparition.

Displaying his customarily dry sarcasm, Rudd comes off the best with snappy patter and wry, humorous observations. In addition to her beauty, Lake Bell’s bubbly, cheerful spirit brings welcome relief.


It seems only fitting that at a time of year when there are more movies than usual geared to a female audience, Sony Pictures decides to release The Jane Austen Book Club for home entertainment.

Based on the Karen J. Fowler best-selling novel, the movie focuses on an eclectic group of Austen aficionados who search for answers within six classic novels.

Kathy Bates has survived six divorces; Emily Blunt’s school teacher is crushed by her husband’s insensitivity; Maria Bello sticks to dog breeding; Amy Brenneman is horrified by her husband’s infidelity; Maggie Grace struggles with sexual identity. Hugh Dancy is the lone male in the book club. Together, they discuss the English writer’s beloved novels in search of answers for the mysteries of love.

The Jane Austen Book Club DVD, in addition to the customary documentary features, includes seven deleted scenes.

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


Lucerne resident Frank Vastano performing at Cafe Victoria Feb. 2. Photo by Joanne Bateni.


LAKEPORT – There were 11 performers including host Phil Mathewson at Café Victoria on a rainy first Saturday afternoon.

Everyone had a chance to perform once within the two-hour time frame.

Local poets Lorna Sue Sides, Lourdes and John W. recited some of their original works. Local magician Phillip Martin mystified everyone with his magic, running the gamut from card tricks to spoon bending.

Guitar player Frank Vastano played a baby snare drum to accompany Phil Mathewson on a couple of Mathewson’s tunes and then sang and played his guitar to his own original songs.

Allen Markowski came over from Clearlake to sing his song “25 Years Ago” and told the group about his Internet sharing project involving the next level of the Internet.

Karen Priest sang her political commentary song, “Who Knows What the Mole Knows?” although she wasn’t familiar with the borrowed guitar. She promises to bring her own next month.

Dick Flowers read a tribute to one of his recently deceased friends which was quite moving.

Newbie Mike Teagan played his guitar and sang a few original tunes.

Last, but not least, Scotty McNeil, a well-known figure around Lake County and owner of the now defunct Alpine Café in Lucerne, told some jokes and played his own modified version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” on the house piano.

Classical music at the open mic, what will be next? Thanks to everyone who came for supporting our new “originals only” format. This means we can’t allow copyrighted material unless you have permission from the copyright holder. If you don’t have original music to perform you can borrow some from the other performers at no charge.

Allen Markowski’s new Web site for local song writers and artists – – is a place to meet local artists and share ideas. Check it out and see you next month.


Upcoming Calendar

05.21.2024 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Board of Supervisors
05.21.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
05.21.2024 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Lakeport City Council
05.22.2024 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Lake Leadership Forum
05.25.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
Memorial Day
05.28.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
06.01.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile

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