Friday, 17 May 2024

Arts & Life



‘THE CONTINENTAL: FROM THE WORLD OF JOHN WICK’ ON PEACOCK

Fans of “John Wick” are most likely to be drawn to the prequel miniseries “The Continental: From the World of John Wick,” if not to experience an origin story, but at least because the fourth chapter of “John Wick” seemed to signal an end to the franchise.

However, because the timeline is set in the gritty New York of the 1970s, there’s no place for Keanu Reeves’ fraught hit man, for the obvious reason that Wick himself was probably in grade school at the time.

The connective tissue is the presence of Colin Woodell as young con man Winston Scott, who will be later, in the person of Ian McShane, the owner of The Continental hotel in the movie series.

In his youthful incarnation, Winston’s unbridled ambition is to replace the current proprietor, Cormac O’Connor (Mel Gibson, more grumpy old man than true menace).

As any fan of the movies would know, the Continental is a neutral ground for assassins and assorted underworld figures who labor under the umbrella of The High Table, a council of criminal overlords.

With its standing policy of a place where no business may be conducted, any breach of the hotel’s sanctuary protocol results in a bounty placed on the head of an offender.

This three-episode series of ninety minutes apiece begins as the tale of two brothers, the younger being Winston, and the older one Frankie (Ben Robson). Winston is based in London where he’s trying to con a wealthy real estate developer.

Meanwhile in New York, Frankie is bent on breaking the sacrosanct rules of The High Table. But first he visits the hotel for a New Year’s Eve party that hosts the top criminal element.

After exchanging pleasantries with Cormac who trained him to be an assassin, Frankie makes his way to the nearby subway station, meeting up with an associate to hatch a heist.

In what is not only bad form but an unforgivable breach, Frankie burrows into the Continental’s vault to purloin an ancient coin press that manufactures the currency used by global assassins.

Of course, Frankie goes into hiding with his Vietnamese wife Yen (Nhung Kate), who proves as brutal as any assassin. While Winston has been estranged from his big brother, he’s inevitably drawn to help Frankie and Yen to elude Cormac’s henchmen.

Some of the interesting characters include Ayomide Adegun as the young Charon, who becomes the hotel’s concierge played so brilliantly by the late Lance Reddick in the films.

Most amusing are twin killers Hansel (Mark Musashi) and Gretal (Marina Mazepa) in their matching Prince Valiant hairstyles. The High Table’s Adjudicator (Katie McGrath) sports a distorted porcelain mask as if emulating an ersatz Phantom of the Opera.

Curiously, Mel Gibson gets a top billing, and other than the fact that he’s the best-known name in the cast, his Cormac is more cartoonishly malevolent than truly dark and foreboding.

Since Gibson’s appearances are more limited at least in the first episode, being the weak link doesn’t undermine the story as long as his ham-handed performance remains overshadowed by his co-stars.

Even though a prequel holds little surprise in a buildup to the “John Wick” series, “The Continental: From the World of John Wick” has more than sufficient plot twists to be an engaging entertainment worth a look.



‘THE CAINE MUTINY COURT-MARTIAL’ ON SHOWTIME

On the heels of its Venice Film Festival premiere, Showtime brings to the small screen “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial,” written and directed by Academy Award celebrated filmmaker William Friedkin and based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Herman Wouk of the same name.

The captivating film follows a U.S. naval first officer who’s standing for trial for orchestrating a mutiny after his captain shows signs of becoming unhinged and jeopardizes the lives of his crew.

At the start of the naval court-martial, Barney Greenwald (Jason Clark), a skeptical Navy lawyer, reluctantly agrees to defend Lt. Steve Maryk (Jake Lacy), a first officer who took control of the U.S.S. Caine.

In the center of controversy is Lieutenant Commander Philip Francis Queeg (Kiefer Sutherland), who appeared wobbly during a violent sea storm in unfriendly waters.

As the trial progresses, Greenwald becomes increasingly concerned and questions if the events aboard the Caine were a true mutiny or simply the courageous acts of a group of sailors who did not trust their unstable leader.

The late Lance Reddick, a popular figure for his role as Charon in the “John Wick” franchise, plays the part of Captain Luther Blakely. Other members of the ensemble cast include Monica Raymund as Commander Challee, Jay Duplass as Lieutenant Bird, and Lewis Pullman as Lieutenant Keefer.

After its festival premiere, “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial” will stream exclusively on Paramount+ on Friday, Oct. 6, before making its linear debut on Showtime on Sunday, Oct. 8.

The film was completed prior to William Friedkin’s passing on Aug. 7, 2023. Friedkin will remain best remembered for classics like “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist.”

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

“Reciprocity” workshop participants building sculpture for EcoArts. Photo by MAC staff.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — The Middletown Art Center invites the public to co-create a sculpture honoring the Hitch, or “Chi,” for the EcoArts Sculpture Walk.

In a rare opportunity to blend wisdom from the past with current issues, we will incorporate traditional bundling, stick bending and cordage making taught by culture bearers and artists Corine Pearce, Joe Weber and Luya Rivera to create sculptural work and raise public awareness to the plight of the hitch.

Pearce, Weber and Rivera will share native stories and wisdom, and traditional approaches to caring for the trees and the land.

They will discuss dwindling hitch populations, their importance to local Indigenous people, ecosystems and current efforts to preserve and strengthen their populations.

Known by the region’s Indigenous people as "chi,” the hitch’s spawning was a time of celebration when tribal members would gather to collect food for the year and visit each other.

The chi has been a staple food and cultural mainstay of the original Pomo inhabitants of the region since time immemorial.

Tribal elders recall the hitch being plentiful and filling creeks. Expanding development and agriculture, declining water quality, gravel mining, invasive species, removal of cultural fire from the land, habitat loss and drought took their toll.

The decline of the chi is the result of a legacy of environmental injustice and land dispossession in the Clear Lake watershed.

Last spring, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife convened a multi-agency state, federal and tribal summit to highlight the needs of the hitch and its risk of extinction.

The summit led to commitments by multiple agencies and tribes to take decisive actions to collect data, preserve streamflows, and enforce on illegal diversions and stream modifications as well as allocating funds for migration barrier removal projects and finalizing a grant to the Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians to conduct stream flow and groundwater monitoring in Clear Lake hitch spawning areas.

The public is warmly invited to attend one or both days of this weekend’s free event on Saturday, Oct. 7, and Sunday, Oct. 8.

Saturday's activities begin at Trailside Park at 10 a.m. and move to the MAC studio ending at 3:30 p.m. Sunday’s activities will take place at MAC from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

No experience is required and people of all abilities, ages and backgrounds are welcome (children under 15 with parents or guardians). Please bring clippers, loppers and gloves if you have them, plenty of water and a lunch. Snacks will be provided.

This event is part of the “Reciprocity” project aimed at revitalizing the EcoArts Sculpture Walk through community-engaged artmaking. It’s funded primarily by an Upstate California Creative Corps grant.

Please sign up in advance at www.middletownartcenter.org/reciprocity.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — Lake County Community Radio is hosting a memorial benefit concert on Oct. 1 for longtime radio personality Ron Green.

Join the KPFZ family for what is sure to be a memorable and fun event dubbed by the organizers, “For the Love of Ron Green.”

It’s an outdoor concert so bring your lawn chairs, put on your dancing shoes and plan on having a good time in Green’s memory.

Concert admission is free.

Green is lovingly remembered for his radio show, “The Philadelphia Lawyer,” a listener and member favorite on KPFZ. Green used his show as a platform for his advocacy of civil rights and justice.

As a director on the LCCR Board, Green advocated for community radio through the many fundraising concerts he produced, most recently the Moonalice and The Barry Melton concerts.

“It is with grateful hearts that we honor Ron’s legacy with a special event in his memory,” said LCCR Board President Olga Martin Steele.

The concert is a memorial and celebration of Green’s life. He made countless contributions to the community he loved, especially community radio.

His wife, Linda Lake and their family will attend along with Green’s many radio friends and listeners and those he helped over the years prior to retiring from his law practice.

“It will be a reunion of sorts,” Lake said. “A time to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Ron knew so many people from different walks of life.”

Music for the concert will be provided by The Andre Williams Band and Beatz Werkin. Food by La Chilanguita and wine by Cache Creek Vineyards and Winery may be purchased on site.

Commemorative T-Shirts will be sold by KPFZ and donations to the Ron Green Memorial Fund are gratefully accepted at the gate or by mail to: LCCR, Inc., P.O. Box 446, Lakeport, Ca 95453. Proceeds will go to the Ron Green Memorial Fund to support KPFZ.

Cache Creek Vineyards and Winery is located on 250 New Long Valley Road, off Highway 20 in Clearlake Oaks. Gates open at 1 p.m. and the music starts at 1:30 p.m. Please leave pets at home.

“We want to thank the musicians, the Cache Creek family and La Chilanguita for their generosity in supporting this event,” said LCCR Vice President Dennis “Pop” Booth.

A few tables are available for purchase. For more information leave a message at the KPFZ office, 707-263-3640 or text 916-849-8170 and someone will get back to you.

Michael Divine at home in his studio. Photo by Violet Divine.


MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — Join the Middletown Art Center, or MAC, this Friday, Oct. 6, from 6 to 8 p.m. for the opening reception of the full gallery exhibition of Michael Divine’s paintings featured in his new art book, “Persuing the Ineffable.”

Michael Divine is best known in Lake County for the numerous murals he has created with his wife, Violet Divine, as TenThousandVisions.

An accomplished artist for over 25 years, he has just released his second limited edition hardcover art book featuring work from the past ten years.

“I try to make work that explores what it feels like to be alive and be human in this day and age,” said Divine. “My artwork is an expression of the archetypes of the human experience. It's a dialogue of our modern cultural and social landscapes with my own inner worlds and imagination coupled with my desire to create the most beautiful expressions of that interaction.”

Divine’s breath-taking work, with its sweeping vision and intricate detail, has been shown and admired around the world. The emotive quality of his work resonates deeply across the human spectrum.

Many of these paintings are on public display for the first time ever and are featured in his newly released book, which will be available for purchase at the gallery. Several new pieces featured are sold and on loan and will likely not be shown publicly again.

His new book, “Persuing the Ineffable.” is a 226-page limited edition hardcover monograph of both paintings and drawings coupled with essays from Divine and other contributors.

The public is invited to the reception at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6, at MAC.

Divine’s work will be on view through Oct. 9.

The public is also invited to join us at MAC on Sunday, Oct. 8, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. for a Q&A with Divine as he talks about the work on display and some of the inspirations and stories behind it.

Find out more about events, programs, opportunities, and ways to get involved, support and celebrate the MAC’s efforts to weave the arts and culture into the fabric of life in Lake County ​at www.​middletownartcenter.org.



‘A HAUNTING IN VENICE’ RATED PG-13

Kenneth Branaugh returns for a third time as famed detective Hercule Poirot in “A Haunting in Venice,” an unsettling supernatural thriller based upon Agatha Christie’s lesser-known novel “Hallowe’en Party.”

Take it from the filmmakers making it known that this adaption of the famous British mystery writer’s work is a slightly different story than what’s in the book. The intent was to make the story a bit more dire.

One inescapable deviation from Christie’s novel is that the location moves from the English countryside to haunted Venice and the story happens on one haunted night rather that over the course of several days, almost a week.

It’s All Hallows’ Eve in an eerie Venice in the years following World War II, where celebrated sleuth Poirot now resides, apparently retired and living in a self-imposed exile.

Poirot may be aloof, but he’s able to afford the full-time services of Vitale Portfoglio (Riccardo Scamarcio), a bodyguard to shield him from the beseechers of his erstwhile services.

Comfortable in his new ways, Poirot resists entreaties to get involved with his craft until along comes crime novelist Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), who has made the sleuth a character in her writing.

Oliver may be suffering an existential crisis just like Poirot, but she lures him out of his shell to attend a Halloween Night séance at the palazzo of former opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly).

The faded elegance of the palazzo is reportedly haunted, though Poirot is skeptical of notion of the place being inhabited by ghosts even if the stormy night seems like the perfect setting for the supernatural.

A celebrity medium, Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) is in attendance in an effort to summon the spirit of Alicia (Rowan Robinson), the daughter of the opera singer. For her part, Oliver hopes that Poirot will prove the clairvoyant to be a fraud.

Oddly enough, Poirot is almost a victim when he’s nearly drowned while bobbing for apples in a basin. But the first dead body turns up when a guest is impaled on a statue.

As is the case with most murder mysteries, the ensemble of guests may include a suspect or two. There’s the nervous Dr. Ferrier (Jamie Dornan) and his precocious young son Leopold (Jude Hill); Alicia’s onetime fiancé Maxime (Kyle Allen); and housekeeper Olga (Camille Cottin).

Reverting to his nature, Poirot locks down the palazzo for the night, announcing that no one can leave until he uncovers the killer. The less said about the plot the better, since revealing too much may spoil the surprises.

True appreciation of Agatha Christie cinematic adaptations for the adventures of Hercule Poirot are best found in films of the Seventies such as “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Death on the Nile,” both of which have been remade in recent years.

“A Haunting in Venice,” though not quite the mystery thriller as good as previous iterations of the Branagh-led franchise, at least has the benefit of a being more appealing to an adult audience weary of repetitive superhero fare.



‘THE RINGLEADER: THE CASE OF THE BLING RING’ ON HBO

The HBO Original documentary film “The Ringleader: The Case of the Bling Ring,” the true story of celebrity robberies, debuts on Sunday, October 1 on HBO and will be available to stream on MAX.

In a candid, first-time interview with Rachel Lee, the so-called teenage mastermind behind a string of high-profile celebrity robberies in 2008 and 2009, “The Ringleader” examines the motivations of Lee and a group of her friends.

Breaking into celebrity homes in Hollywood to ransack and steal, the teens were fueled by the climate of celebrity excess as well as grappling with mental health issues and addictions.

Dozens of homes were burglarized by a surprisingly unsophisticated crime ring of youth from Calabasas. At the center of the controversy is 19-year-old Rachel Lee who led the burglaries at the homes of Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, and Lindsay Lohan.

Lee remained silent while the media and her former friends branded her the ringleader of a series of crimes that captured the culture’s fascination. Over ten years later and following a prison sentence, Lee speaks for the first time about her role in the crime spree.

The ringleader outlines the culture of celebrity worship that prevailed in the early 2000s, when socialites and Hollywood stars flaunted their wealth and designer lifestyles on social media and popular reality shows.

Driven by the need to be seen as a cool kid in high school and to emulate the lives of her idols, and using celebrity websites to track her victims’ whereabouts, Lee and her friends targeted celebrity homes to help themselves to over three million dollars’ worth of valuables and cash.

Chronicling the months of burglaries, the drama that transpired in the aftermath of the arrests and prosecutions, and the subsequent casting of blame, “The Ringleader” sheds light on a culture that led troubled teenagers to covet the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

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




‘THE RETIREMENT PLAN’ RATED R

Billing “The Retirement Plan” as an action comedy might be a stretch, but there is something quite amusing about the ineptness of so many henchmen of a crime lord unable to fulfill what seems an easy enough assignment.

As the story opens, a man and a woman are making a getaway from an apparent heist of what turns out to be the film’s MacGuffin, the object or device that serves merely as a trigger for the plot.

In this case, it happens to be a flash drive that belongs supposedly to Donnie (Jackie Earle Haley), a crime boss with a hair-trigger temper which might be the result of him having to report to his psychotic superior (Grace Byers).

Jimmy (Jordan Johnson-Hinds) and his wife Ashley (Ashley Greene) realize that they have just bought themselves a monumental pile of trouble with this theft and need an escape plan.

Ashley hides the flash drive in their young daughter Sarah’s (Thalia Campbell) backpack and puts her on a flight to the Cayman Islands with a note to locate a man named Matt (or Jim?), who turns out to be her estranged father (Nicolas Cage).

Holding Jimmy hostage, Donnie tells Sarah that she will be accompanied by his Shakespeare-loving henchman Bobo (Ron Perlman) and another thug to retrieve the flash drive unless someone or everyone will die.

Of course, Matt doesn’t realize that he has a granddaughter and he’s not well equipped to take care of her since he’s retired from his government work and savors the beach bum lifestyle.

Unknown to Ashley when she arrives at her father’s beachside home with Bobo and the goon is that Matt has been hiding his special skills, namely that he’s a retired special forces soldier trained as an assassin.

When Donnie’s goon ends up dead, Bobo kidnaps Sarah, which leads to the unlikely formation of a bond when the young girl’s affinity for reading “Othello” triggers an interesting dynamic with her Shakespeare-quoting captor.

Aside from Matt easily killing Donnie’s successive wave of goons showing up in the Caymans, other characters involve Matt’s old boss (Lynn Whitfield) and her seemingly duplicitous right-hand (Joel David Moore) getting in on the action.

Even some political intrigue comes into view when a mysterious powerful figure (Rick Fox) has a great interest in the flash drive that may propel his political ambitions for high office.

In many respects, “The Retirement Plan” is quite conventional as an action picture with Nicolas Cage channeling his inner rage in a most effective way of killing countless bad guys that would otherwise hurt his family.

At a nicely moving and relatively swift pace, this action film offers some welcome humor in unusual ways. Arguably, best of all is Bobo’s comically awkward phone calls with Donnie in which he’s always at a loss to explain how every attempt to kill Matt proves to be a failure.

If not easily found at a local cinema, “The Retirement Plan” seems almost certainly to end up on a streaming service in relatively short order. A pickup by Netflix or Amazon seems possible, and it will offer a fun diversion.



‘SPY OPS’ ON NETFLIX

An eight-part documentary series on Netflix, “Spy Ops” might be the thing for anyone interested in a perspective on real world events ranging from an assassination plot on Pope John Paul II to the initial intrusion into Afghanistan following the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.

The first episode is “Operation Jawbreaker,” when CIA operatives land in the part of Afghanistan under the control of the Northern Alliance, the mortal enemies of the hated and ruthless Taliban.

The leader of the Northern Alliance is Ahmad Shah Massoud, the biggest enemy of the Taliban seen from archival footage since he meets an untimely death.

Narrator for a good part of the episode is the late Gary Schroen, the Jawbreaker Team Leader for the CIA. He reports that it was known that Osama bin Laden was the leader of al-Qaeda and hiding somewhere in Afghanistan.

An interesting part of this episode is the reminder that American withdrawal two years ago has resulted in the “horror of the Taliban enveloping the country” even more completely than it did before 9/11.

The second episode “Operation Just Cause” is the story of how America came to invade Panama in order to depose its strongman General Manuel Noriega, who was trafficking drugs and had once been on the CIA payroll for a long time.

Noriega, nicknamed “Pineapple Face” for his pockmarked facial features, is portrayed as a double-dealing opportunist working for the CIA and selling U.S. intelligence secrets to Cuba.

There’s a news clip of Dan Rather reporting on the United Nations General Assembly deploring the invasion of Panama as a “flagrant violation of international law.”

The “Operation Pimlico” tale of MI6 orchestrating the extraction of a Soviet double agent from Moscow is fascinating like a Jack Ryan or James Bond spy story.

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

Upcoming Calendar

18May
05.18.2024 7:30 am - 1:00 pm
Inaugural veterans charity run
18May
05.18.2024 8:00 am - 11:00 am
Sheriff’s Activity League benefit breakfast
18May
05.18.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
18May
05.18.2024 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Land Trust benefit
21May
05.21.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
22May
05.22.2024 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Lake Leadership Forum
25May
05.25.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
27May
05.27.2024
Memorial Day
28May
05.28.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

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