Sunday, 25 February 2024

Arts & Life




‘MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART ONE’ RATED PG-13

Tom Cruise has spent nearly half his life cranking out the “Mission: Impossible” franchise to great, everlasting success that continues, considering the title of the new entry is “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One.” Sadly, we must wait another year for resolution.

At the age of 61, the actor retains his youthful looks and a stamina that seems incredible given that he apparently does a lot of his own stunts, much to the trepidation of studio executives and the production team.

Case in point with the seventh entry in the franchise, on the first day of filming, Cruise drove a motorbike off a mountain.

Specifically, he drove a custom-made Honda CRF 250 off a purpose-built ramp on the side of a Norwegian mountain, a high rock face 4,000 feet above sea level.

Then he plunged that distance into the ravine below before opening his parachute barely 500 feet from the ground.

When he landed, director Christopher McQuarrie and the small crew of co-stars who had assembled to watch the sequence on video, breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The even crazier part is that Tom Cruise picked himself up and did it all again another seven times, just to make sure the footage was perfect. I am wondering about the cost of insurance premiums to cover this daredevil actor.

Stunts could get more extreme for “Part Two,” as the director confirmed the bike jump was “far and away the most dangerous thing we had ever attempted. The only thing that scared me more than that stunt was what we had planned for “Part Two.””

That “Mission: Impossible” fans will be left hanging at the end of “Part One” is not really a bad thing except for having to wait for the release date of “Part Two” in June 2024. Anticipation will lead to speculation, and interest is not likely to fade.

Once again, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and his colleagues, Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), the tech wiz who’s now more involved in field operations, and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), a veteran of the entire series, risk their lives in another unsanctioned mission.

The opening of the film involves a Russian submarine under attack that houses an Artificial Intelligence threat for world domination known as The Entity. As the sub sinks to the ocean floor, The Entity becomes an object of desire for all sorts of villains.

The Impossible Missions Force is once again, with Ethan as the lead, engaged in another mission-if-you-choose-to-accept-it situation where the retrieval of two interlocking keys will shut down the dangerous The Entity that bad guys desperately seek.

With Ethan, Luther and Benji as the core of the IMF, old friends, allies, and even occasional enemies resurface. Familiar faces include the return of Henry Czerny as the CIA director and former IMF leader Eugene Kittridge, who often seems to have ulterior motives.

Returning like a guardian angel in a desert scene is Rebecca Ferguson’s rogue MI6 agent Ilsa Faust, whose sniper skills save Ethan from an ambush. Like so many other spies, Ilsa can be something of an enigma.

On the villain side of the ledger, Vanessa Kirby is back as the unscrupulous arms dealer White Widow, assisted by her henchman Zola (Frederick Schmidt), and then there’s ruthless newcomer assassin Paris (Pom Klementieff) serving as Gabriel’s deadly accomplice.

A welcome addition is Hayley Atwell’s Grace, a pickpocket that Ethan runs into at the Dubai airport. She’s after the key for its monetary worth, and then becomes something of paradox as an ally of convenience to Ethan.

Topping all the villains as a deadly adversary to Ethan and this team is a terrorist named Gabriel (Esai Morales) with a connection to The Entity. As the chief villain, Gabriel is not your commonplace bad guy; he’s slick and menacing, even if a bit eccentric.

There are so many great action scenes in this movie that are jaw-dropping that it may be hard to choose a favorite beyond the bike jump. A car chase through Rome is quite thrilling, but there are even better spectacles.

A speeding train through the Austrian alps finds Gabriel and Ethan in manual combat on the roof, where the thrills are far more convincing that what occurred in the most recent “Indiana Jones” movie.

Released at the end of May last year, “Top Gun: Maverick” was the blockbuster film of the summer. “Mission: Impossible” should be the same this year, and the trifecta may come to fruition with “Part Two” next summer.

What else is there to say than Tom Cruise is on a roll, and “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” probably has no competitor on the horizon during the balance of summer. “Barbie,” for instance, is no threat to anyone other than Ken.

Make haste to see this movie on the big screen, because the action sequences are so stunning that any misgivings about the nebulous artificial intelligence that is The Entity is not even worthy of a thought. In brief, “Mission: Impossible” is a grand action spectacle.

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



‘NO HARD FEELINGS’ RATED R

Craigslist is a familiar website as a marketplace with classified advertisements where one can find jobs, services, housing, things to buy and sell, discussion forums, and you name it.

This online trading post is now the place to find an idea for a movie. Writer-director Gene Stupnitsky, the creative force behind “No Hard Feelings,” told Jennifer Lawrence that two producers for the film found a real-life Craigslist post that fit the bill.

The popular marketplace had an ad posted by parents that sought a young woman to seduce their timid, inexperienced son, and transform him from a high school nerd to a cool college kid with confidence.

That’s the basic premise of “No Hard Feelings,” with Jennifer Lawrence’s Maddie, a resident of tony Montauk’s summer resort town, thinking she’s found the answer to her financial troubles when she hears about an intriguing job listing.

Wealthy helicopter parents Laird (Matthew Broderick) and Allison Becker (Laura Benanti) are looking for someone to “date” their introverted 19-year-old son Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman), and bring him out of his shell before he leaves for Princeton.

A 32-year-old bartender/Uber driver, Maddie inherited a comfortable home from her mother in the seaside village of Montauk, but she owes property taxes and her car gets repossessed, thereby losing the ability to make money by driving tourists to pay off her debts.

Learning of the ad placed by the Beckers from her friend Sarah (Natalie Morales), Maddie is desperate enough to convince Percy’s parents that she’s up to the task, though having to disabuse the notion she’s a sex worker.

The inducement for Maddie to undertake an assignment of robbing a college-bound nerd of his virginity is that payment will be a used Buick with low mileage that enables her to cash in on Uber lifts during the busy summer season.

Setting the stage for an introduction, Maddie feigns interest in adopting a rescue dog since this allows her to meet Percy at his volunteer job at the animal shelter.

Having borrowed a van from Sarah’s surfer husband Jim (Scott MacArthur), Maddie insists on giving Percy a ride home, which gets the relationship off to a bad start when he becomes scared that she’s actually trying to kidnap him.

After getting a face full of Mace from a terrified Percy, the putative kidnapping misunderstanding gets cleared up and they end up on a date, and eventually they go skinny-dipping one evening at the beach, where a naked Maddie fights off kids trying to steal their clothes.

“No Hard Feelings” suffers somewhat from its erratic shifts between a serenely raunchy sex comedy and the safer confines of sentimentality where the two main characters form an eventual yet improbable friendship.

An R-rated comedy, “No Hard Feelings” milks a simple premise to allow Jennifer Lawrence’s goofy temptress to shine with comedic appeal, even if the humor is sometimes uneven. It might be best to wait until this movie is on a streaming service.



‘BILLIONS’ FINAL SEASON ON SHOWTIME

“Billions” returns for its seventh and final season on Showtime next month, and the best news is that Damian Lewis’ hedge-fund king Bobby Axelord is back and we can only guess that his longtime rival Mike Prince (Corey Stoll) is in for a fight.

In season six, the dust of season five cleared to reveal a world that had evolved. With Axe gone and Prince assuming his place as the new head of Axe Capital, US Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) had to develop a new strategy more sophisticated than before.

All the players, from Wags (David Costabile) to Wendy (Maggie Siff), from Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon) to Kate Sacker (Condola Rashad), and of course Chuck Rhoades, Sr. (Jeffrey DeMunn), had to sharpen their weapons and look for new alliances in order to survive.

Daniel Breaker, who stars as Scooter, the brilliant and locked-down Chief of Staff for Prince, was upped to a series regular. As always in the corrupt world of “Billions,” the ground was ever shifting and the stakes absolute with new conflict and new rules.

Season seven is described as one where “alliances are turned on their heads. Old wounds are weaponized. Loyalties are tested. Betrayal takes on epic proportions. Enemies become wary friends. And Bobby Axelrod returns, as the stakes grow from Wall Street to the world.”

As anyone who has followed “Billions” even casually would know, what’s old is new again. Last season, Prince was in the crosshairs of the US Attorney. With Bobby Axelrod returning, he’s probably a target not just for Chuck Rhoades.

Actions have consequences, and never more dire and momentous than just about any episode of this series. Guys like Prince, Rhoades and Axelrod, among others, are always going to be at each other’s throats. But that’s the tried-and-true formula.

“Billions” likely continues on with cat-and-mouse games between the government officials and Wall Street hustlers. Mike Prince’s political ambitions in an expected presidential run could result in an even more epic minefield of intrigue.

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

The annual Mendocino College New Play Festival is a homegrown feast of local talent. Courtesy photo.

NORTH COAST, Calif. — Local writers take note: There has never been a better opportunity to try your hand at playwriting.

Mendocino College is currently seeking short plays by local authors for production on campus in fall 2023.

One of the most exciting events of the college’s theater season is the annual Festival of New Plays.

Once again, theater professor Reid Edelman will use short plays written by local authors to teach directing and acting students about the joys and challenges of working with new scripts.

This production of student-written scripts is now in its 17th year, and the event has become a highlight of the college’s annual theater season.

Since the festival began, Edelman has worked with Communications Department professor and playwright Jody Gehrman to find and develop student-written plays.

Anybody residing in Lake, Sonoma or Mendocino counties is eligible to submit an original play.

“We clearly have an abundance of talented writers in this area,” said Gehrman, “but only a small percentage of them even think about writing a play. Playwrights aren’t born, they’re coerced by people like us to try it once. After seeing their work produced, most become addicted; it’s a tremendous high to sit in a theater and watch your ideas come to life.”

The deadline for submissions is Aug. 1.

There are no limitations in terms of theme or content, but small casts (two to five characters) and minimal technical requirements are recommended for optimal chances at production.

Scripts should have a running time of no longer than 10 minutes.

Electronic submissions should be saved as PDF files and sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as an attachment.

For more information, contact Reid Edelman, 707-468-3172.

You can also mail your play to 1000 Hensley Creek Road, Ukiah, CA 95482.

Performances will be Nov. 2 to 5.

Auditions for actors will be in September.

COBB, Calif. — Organizers of the Cobb Sculpture Jam are issuing a call for all artists, budding artists and art enthusiasts living in Lake County to participate in the event and a summer construction workshop.

The Cobb Sculpture Jam event will take place at the Mountain Meadow golf course, Greg Clouse’s “Art by Design” and/or your own studio.

The event will showcase artists in our creative community and be another step toward community identity and economic development for the Cobb area while creating an outdoor museum without walls.

The construction workshop is planned for late July/early August. The community “ Sculpture Jam” will be the weekends of Oct. 14 and 21.

Local experienced artists will coach budding artists to build sculptures using natural or reclaimed materials. It will be similar to other sculpture jams in the Bay Area, such as Sebastopol, Napa and Cloverdale, and similar in theme to the Eco Arts at Middletown Trailside Park.

Finished sculptures will be placed along Highway 175 at key businesses, lit up with solar lights at night and available for purchase.

A map will be posted on www.ExploreCobbCA.com.

Join the construction workshop in planning to learn how to construct various reuse items. Then create sculpture either at your own location or for simpler ideas join the two-weekend Sculpture Jam where lead artists can help you realize your ideas.

Then you will install these on various chosen sites around Cobb Mountain or on Highway 175.

For more information or to get an application contact Glenneth at 707-295-6934.



‘INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY’ Rated PG-13

One thing certain about the “Indiana Jones” franchise that now spans forty-two years is that there is a comfortable knowledge that one person, namely, Harrison Ford, carries the entire series with memorable assurance.

Contrast Ford’s durable presence over this period of time with the fact that from the beginning of Sean Connery’s portrayal of James Bond in 1962 another four actors from Roger Moore to Pierce Brosnan would take on the mantle of the famous spy over a 40-year timeframe.

Indiana Jones remains one of the most beloved characters brought to the screen, and it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Ford, with his battered brown fedora and leather jacket, having the same staying power in the cultural consciousness.

For “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” a de-aging process would prove necessary to cast the octogenarian Ford’s Indiana Jones into an extended prologue of fighting the Nazis at the tail end of World War II in a quest for the artifact of the Archimedes Dial.

The marvel of digital enhancement does render Ford convincingly age-appropriate in trying to rescue his archeological colleague and friend Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) on a fast-moving train while trying to snatch the Lance of Longinus, a religious relic that turns out to be fake.

The knife that is alleged to have pierced the side of Jesus on the cross may be a counterfeit holy relic, but the Archimedes Dial is a device that purportedly holds the power to locate fissures in time.

Naturally, the Dial is the type of mechanism that could prove disastrous if it falls into the wrong hands, which is why the Nazis are so eager to find the missing piece that would make the device whole.

The prologue proves to be an exciting non-stop twenty- minute sequence of Indy making an escape from a lynching to battling a slew of Nazi villains that culminates with him and Basil in a daring mad dash atop a speeding train.

The action cuts to the film’s present day of 1969 with Indy now an old man living in a modest New York apartment who starts yelling at hippies blaring the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” that has disturbed his slumber.

His tenure as professor of archeology at New York’s Hunter College comes to an end, and not a moment too soon as it appears Indy’s as bored with teaching as the students in his class show not even the slightest bit of interest in the subject matter.

But one person in the class turns out to be Indy’s estranged goddaughter Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who he does not immediately recognize, and she’s there for purely mercenary reasons.

Indy has been holding on to one-half of the precious Archimedes Dial, but Helena steals it because she’s a con artist anxious to sell it on the black market to the highest bidder.

Meanwhile, a Nazi nemesis from World War II named Dr. Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), now known as Dr. Schmidt, is working in the U.S. Space Program, but he and his Nazi henchmen are now after Indy and Helena in pursuit of the Dial for nefarious purposes.

Meanwhile, New York City is tossing a ticker-tape parade for the Apollo 11 astronauts who have returned from the moon landing, and the celebration gets interrupted with a chase scene that has Indy stealing a police horse and escaping from the Nazis into the subway system.

From there, the action shifts to Tangiers where Indy stops Helena from selling the Dial at an auction, and they acquire a helpful sidekick in resourceful teenager Teddy (Ethann Bergua-Isidore).

Aside from the frenzied tuk tuk chase through the streets of Tangiers, there’s also a great underwater adventure with Indy’s pal Renaldo (Antonio Banderas) and a far-fetched journey in time travel.

“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” may not capture the magic of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but then neither did some of the sequels that preceded this fifth and final installment of the franchise.

Nevertheless, it’s still fun to see the aging Harrison Ford still wearing the fedora in grand style and cracking the whip with the confidence of his younger self. However, it would have been better not to see an old codger walking around shirtless in his apartment.

Foiling Dr. Voller’s evil Nazi plan to change the course of history is obviously satisfying. When Voller tells an American that “You didn’t win the war. Hitler lost it,” you know this Nazi is a megalomaniac who sees himself as the next Fuhrer.

Let’s face the obvious that the best villains in the “Indiana Jones” movies are Nazis, with Indy slugging it out with them and eventually prevailing. Thwarting Hitler’s goons is box office gold, and should help this final chapter to please the fan base.

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

Ami and Nic at the Interplanetary Criminal show in San Francisco this week. Courtesy photo.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — You are invited to a night of contemporary underground dance music straight out of the United Kingdom at Middletown Art Center this Saturday, July 8, from 8 to 10:30 p.m.

DJs Nic and Ami will play new and recent UK Garage, or UKG, Break Beat, Bass House and more for your dancing pleasure.

Whether you enjoy electronic music or love to dance, it will be a great night of fresh sounds. Plus, it’s MAC’s first DJ Dance since the pandemic began which is cause for celebration.

Nick Hay grew up in London during the heyday of punk rock and caught the early rave scene and warehouse dance parties in the late 80s. He DJ’d reggae, dancehall and jungle in the LA club scene in the 90s and has become a popular local DJ since moving to Lake County.

Emerging DJ, Ami Verhey, graduated from Middletown High School, then UC Davis with a degree in environmental sciences in 2022.

A lover of electronic/dance music, Verhey is excited to share music by contemporary artists like Interplanetary Criminal and Sammy Virji among others who are part of the UK Garage current momentum.

Listening to Hay discuss the evolution of UKG and Verhey’s enthusiasm for what they both describe as “groove with a bass anchor” was fascinating.

“Ami has an amazing instinct as a DJ, perhaps because he grew up immersed in a broad range of dance and world music,” said Hay, who is a kind of mentor to Verhey. “We’re excited to restart dances at MAC with new music and new energy!”

This Saturday is certain to be an exhilarating night of music and movement. And, you can be assured that there will be bass.

Tickets cost $15 or one or two for $25, and will be available at the door which opens at 7:45 p.m. Teens will be admitted for just $5.

Food by Goddess of the Mountain will be available as well as beverages for sale (21-up only).

The Middletown Art Center is located at 21456 Highway 175 (at the junction of Highway 29). For more information about Freedom to Dance, and other events and classes coming up at MAC visit www.middletownartcenter.org.

Upcoming Calendar

28Feb
2Mar
03.02.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Special Olympics Polar Plunge
3Mar
03.03.2024 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Pianists Benefit Concert
10Mar
17Mar
03.17.2024
St. Patrick's Day
31Mar
03.31.2024
Easter Sunday
1Apr
04.01.2024
Easter Monday
15Apr
04.15.2024
Tax Day

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