Saturday, 25 May 2024

Arts & Life

The Roots making prints. Courtesy photo.

MENDOCINO COUNTY, Calif. — The second annual ImPRESSED printmaking exhibit opens Aug. 26 at the Mendocino County Museum.

Best known for their restoration of steam engines, the Roots of Motive Power, or Roots, are also avid supporters of the arts.

Since 1998, Roots have been sharing their Buffalo 1924 Steam Roller, and talented crew, with Bay Area printmakers at the annual Roadworks Steam Festival in the Do.Re.Mi Arts District, hosted by the San Francisco Center for the Book, or CFTB.

Roots have provided this same opportunity locally at their annual Steam Festival in Willits.

Mendocino County Museum decided to spotlight the printmaking aspect of this great event, by hosting linocut workshops and showcasing a stunning collection of works from Emmy Lou Packard, Henry Evans, and Bill Zacha, along with contemporary artists from Art Explorers in Fort Bragg.

The museum then exhibited the 60-plus community prints made during the event.

This year, the museum has invited innovative printmakers with connections to the CFTB to showcase their work, further encouraging and expanding the exchange of ideas and community connections initiated by the Roots of Motive Power.

Renowned printmaker Rik Olson will be featured; he is busy carving a 3-foot by 3-foot block to be printed at Recreation Grove during this years’ Steam Festival.

Guest artists Meg Pohlod and Solange Roberdeau will be showing innovative designs that push the boundaries of traditional printmaking.

The museum is pleased to have Art Explorers return and showcase their work, printing blocks and products, to demonstrate the endless possibilities of this medium.

This exhibit celebrates the power of artmaking as fuel for strengthening community and encouraging innovation and collaboration.

Everyone is encouraged to participate, no previous art or printmaking experienced is required; all are welcome.

The museum is seeking volunteer support for upcoming printmaking activities. Contact the Museum to register as a volunteer and sign-up to help with a program.

For more information, please visit www.mendocinocounty.org/museum or contact the Mendocino County Museum at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 707-234-6365.



‘BARBIE’ RATED PG-13

When fans of the Mattel toy franchise turn up in droves at the theater wearing different shades of pink outfits, it’s undeniable that “Barbie” would take the box office by storm.

The toy line produced for worldwide consumption is so ubiquitous the dolls have been around for more than 60 years.

The film pays homage to the creator with Rhea Perlman appearing as Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler giving encouragement for Barbie’s liberation.

March 1959 marked the launch of eleven inches of curvaceous adult plastic, a revolution in the doll industry, which up until this time only produced baby dolls.

The Barbie doll was named after Handler’s own daughter, and remains the world’s top-selling doll.

Check out Mattel’s website and you will find a seemingly endless variety of “fashionista” Barbie dolls and a bunch of Ken dolls, even one with a prosthetic leg. Inspiring Barbies include Dr. Jane Goodall, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, and Bessie Coleman.

How did I end up at this movie, you may ask? Two daughters were persuasive that this would be a nice family outing, and who can argue with that? Yet, “Barbie” is definitely not the type of entertainment that would have pulled me into an air-conditioned theater on a hot day.

What is the fuss all about? Margo Robbie is the “Stereotypical” Barbie, and let’s concede that she undeniably has the glamorous looks befitting the image of a blonde-haired and blue-eyed beauty queen.

At the film’s opening, the scene is Barbie Land, where just about everything is the color pink. Every day is bright and sunny and Robbie’s Barbie wakes up with a usual morning routine and waves to all the other Barbies in the neighborhood.

For some odd reason, the idealized setting of “Barbie” is reminiscent of another Warner Brothers film, “Don’t Worry Darling,” where the mid-century modern architecture lends itself to a flawless world in a desert environment, except nothing was truly perfect at all.

Barbie Land, with its impeccable dream homes and tidy landscape, is the fevered dream of a pink utopia, and yet Barbie is facing an existential crisis which will lead to leaving in her pink Corvette with Ken (Ryan Gosling) to find the Real World. Barbie Land is not perfect either.

Ken, like all his male counterparts in Barbie Land, is rather dim-witted and spends his time patrolling the pristine beach which doesn’t have an ocean. Water is non-existent in Barbie Land, which one would notice when Barbie takes her so-called daily shower.

Adding some fun to the Barbie world is Michael Cera’s Allan, the only non-Ken male doll, who’s different than the others in a fun and charming way, and who tries to make a break in the back of Barbie’s car.

There is no patriarchy in Barbie Land, which Ken knows nothing about since all the Barbies hold every position of power and prestige. A black Barbie (Issa Rae) is president. The Supreme Court is packed with all Barbies. Only a Barbie can be a doctor or lawyer.

The most fun Barbie is actually Kate McKinnon’s Weird Barbie, who is definitely neither glamorous nor a prototypical beauty queen contestant. Weird Barbie is delightfully funny and off-kilter. Her punk hairstyle and marked-up face are just right for the part.

Once in contemporary Los Angeles, role reversal comes into play for Barbie and Ken. Barbie is treated to a leering sexist objectification, while Ken finds ideas of a patriarchy starting to fill his empty head with a sense of male empowerment that doesn’t exist in Barbie Land.

The doll duo spend time in Venice Beach, where Ken discovers that his notion of “beach” from back home is quite different when he asks a lifeguard about getting a job.

With Ken strolling around southern California either in a fur coat or a cowboy outfit, he started to make me think of Jon Voight’s character in “Midnight Cowboy,” minus the sexual perversion of a seedy New York City in the late Sixties.

Taking to heart his newfound interest in male dominance, Ken organizes Barbie Land into something unrecognizable, a world where patriarchy takes over and an alternate world of frat house sensibility rules the day.

For Barbie’s sake, her new friends in the Real World include Mattel executive assistant Gloria (America Ferrera) and her surly teenage daughter Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt) who has outgrown any use for dolls. Both help steer Barbie back to her natural environment.

The most conflict Barbie faces in the human world is when she ends up at Mattel headquarters, and the smarmy CEO (Will Ferrell) wants to put her in a box package. The CEO and the all-male Board of Directors become the natural villains of the story.

To be fair, this reviewer was not the intended audience for “Barbie,” but Barbie Land’s alternate reality is the best part of the film, while the venture into the Real World offers some hilarious fish-out-of-water experiences for both Barbie and Ken.

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



‘OPPENHEIMER’ RATED R

In his inimitable style, director Christopher Nolan favors complex storytelling of theoretical themes with eccentric narratives that are strangely audacious in a blockbuster manner with an oddly art-house sensibility.

His brain-bending heist film “Inception” took audiences deep into the inner space of the dreaming mind. The space odyssey “Interstellar” was a trippy journey into the outer limits and twisting whirlpool of the universe.

Nolan put his stamp of originality, what Joseph Bevan of the British Film Institute called “a new brand of intelligent escapism,” on a trilogy of “Batman” films starting with “Batman Begins” and ending with “The Dark Knight Rises.”

In the bold wartime epic “Dunkirk,” Nolan captured the harrowing experiences of soldiers trying to survive the deadly horror of World War II on the beaches of Normandy. Not so terrific was “Tenet,” a metaphysical sci-fi thriller about the present under attack from the future.

With his body of work well-known to many moviegoers, Nolan brings to the screen “Oppenheimer” a most ambitious and sweeping epic thriller that delves deep into the psyche of the singular American mind of a brilliant scientist.

A Time magazine cover story proclaimed J. Robert Oppenheimer “the father of the atomic bomb.” As much he may have wished later in life to escape that encomium, Oppenheimer would forever be remembered for his role in bringing an end to the war with Japan.

One may wonder what the theoretical physicist would think about “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” the more than 700 pages Pulitzer Prize-book by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin and the film’s source material. I didn’t have time to read it beforehand.

At a running time of three hours, “Oppenheimer” can only paint the broader picture but with enough details to be riveting. We glimpse Oppenheimer’s (Cillian Murphy) early years in the 1920s studying in Europe and showing promise of his brilliance.

While the focus is on Oppenheimer, who seems to be in almost every frame of this picture, heading up the top-secret Manhattan Project at the hastily-constructed outpost of Los Alamos, New Mexico, the story does not unfold in linear fashion.

There are numerous flashbacks and flashforwards to the life of the physicist, from professor at UC Berkeley before the war, and then post-war, his position as director of an institute at Princeton to losing his security clearance before a hearing of the Atomic Energy Commission.

A bundle of contradictions, Oppenheimer does not fit neatly into a hero role. While hardly orthodox in his religion, the scientist’s Jewish heritage certainly motivated his desire to develop the weapon that would topple the Nazi regime.

At the time, Germany was believed to be ahead of the allies in terms of developing a nuclear weapon. Oppenheimer was joined in the New Mexico desert by scientists of similar heritage to his own. Stopping Hitler was the logical imperative.

Oppenheimer was recruited by General Leslie Graves (Matt Damon), who understood the stakes but nevertheless wondered if pushing the button would destroy the world. When Oppenheimer says the chance is near zero, Graves replied that “zero would be nice.”

Facets of Oppenheimer’s life and political views proved to be problematic for many. Intellectually arrogant and aloof, Oppenheimer was described as someone who “couldn’t run a hamburger stand.”

What was troublesome but overlooked because of the necessity of developing a weapon to drop on Japan was Oppenheimer’s Communist sympathies in his early years, though he associated with a lot of party members including his wife Kitty (Emily Blunt) and lover (Florence Pugh).

Being a notorious womanizer was underscored by his intense, torrid affair with psychiatrist Jean Tatlock (Pugh). The nude scenes of their tryst seem gratuitous but suggestive that maybe Oppenheimer strayed far and wide from his marriage.

After the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the post-war era is just as spellbinding with Oppenheimer ending up in the crosshairs of his nemesis Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey, Jr.), chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.

Weirdly enough as the progenitor of the nuclear bomb, Oppenheimer fell out of favor for his opposition to developing the hydrogen bomb, putting him in conflict with Dr. Edward Teller (Benny Safdie).

After the fact, Oppenheimer wanted to reign in his invention, not understanding the nuclear age had taken on a life of its own and the Soviet rush to nuclear armament led to the Cold War era of doomsday angst.

“Oppenheimer” may be viewed as a cautionary tale of the existential fear in the lives of people everywhere given what’s happening now on the world stage with a rogue nation that remains a nuclear power.

The scientists at the Manhattan Project may have been troubled as they sought the secrets of fission to make a fusion bomb, a fear that Oppenheimer dubbed “the terrible possibility.” After watching “Oppenheimer,” a little escapism may be necessary. “Barbie,” anyone?

“Oppenheimer” is an epic thriller well-worth the experience and best seen in IMAX if possible, though an intermission would have been nice.

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



‘MEG 2: THE TRENCH’ RATED PG-13

Consistent with its predecessor, “Meg 2: The Trench” is a cheesy action thriller that no one, particularly the filmmakers, can take seriously.

Like “The Meg,” this sequel brings back favorite characters as well as the inherent silliness of mindless diversion.

Popcorn entertainment is not a totally bad thing when you can leave your brain at home and sit for just short of two hours in a theater because the megalodons and other prehistoric creatures look so much more impressive on the big screen.

To anyone who has seen “Jaws” or any number of Godzilla movies, what happens in “Meg 2” is as predictable as guessing what the weather will be like on a summer day in Death Valley. But that doesn’t really matter unless you are a cynic.

After a brief opening scene to demonstrate how prehistoric creatures ruled the earth for 65 million years, patience will be required until we get to the meat of the story, or the reason we showed up, namely to witness the battle of man versus monsters.

However, even the brief interlude of the Cretaceous period offers a lesson on the food chain of prehistoric times, as a dragonfly is scarfed by a giant lizard, which is in turn devoured by a T-Rex, who ventures too close to the ocean’s edge and meets his fate with a megalodon.

Having Jason Statham return as deep-sea diver and environmental activist Jonas Taylor is a nod to his status as a fan favorite. Now he’s teamed up with Chinese megastar Wu Jing’s Jiuming Zhang for a submersible dive into the trench 25,000 feet below.

The human action gets a kick-start when Jonas stows away on a cargo ship to stop the dumping of radioactive waste into the Philippine Sea, a task that requires his martial arts skills before taking a dangerous leap into the ocean for a daring airborne rescue.

There’s a swanky celebratory event at the oceanographic Zhang Institute, where any number of corporate types might plant the inevitable seed of some sort of malfeasance or treachery looming on the horizon.

Spoiler alert! There is a corporate villain by the name of Driscoll (Sienna Guillory), who has her eye on massive profits that have nothing at all to do with preserving the ocean’s ecosystem.

The institute holds a megalodon in captivity that is named Haiqi and has been trained by Jiuming to respond in Pavlovian fashion to a clicker. The big fish swims about in a large tank where it can be seen through a supposedly impenetrable glass wall.

Jonas and Jiuming, along with their crew, make a deep dive into the trench, only to find that a stowaway on board is teenager Meiying (Sophia Cai), the niece of Jiuming who also counts Jason as a father figure.

Treachery is afoot when the Zhang Institute crew are betrayed by Jess (Skyler Samuels) who is in league with a bunch of mercenaries engaged in a rogue mining operation of the ocean floor without regard for how this unleashes megalodons from their natural habitat.

With a sabotage of the submersible, the Zhang crew are forced into a dangerous trek on the ocean floor to find another means to return to base. This is probably the least interesting part of the movie.

After a fight with mercenaries on the research platform in the ocean, the action gets into serious gear on the curiously-named Fun Island, a resort where the tourists will soon be in danger when megalodons and a humongous octopus arrive near the shore with a vengeance.

We get to marvel at Jonas riding a yellow jet ski, armed with chemical harpoons, in a high-speed chase of megalodons, while a helicopter ends up in a battle with the giant reach of an octopus tentacle.

While some hapless tourists never reach safety, it is satisfying to see some of the bad guys chomped by the megalodons having the incredible ability to leap out of the ocean.

While the megalodons have a healthy appetite for human flesh, the action remains pretty much free of bloody gore, resulting in the death toll being handled in a restrained manner, which allows the film to retain a more family friendly rating.

“Meg 2: The Trench” may disappoint some for the perception of a cautious entertainment that could have either taken the more serious manner of the first “Jaws” movie or the overblown comedic tone of the “Sharknado” franchise.

The possibility of another sequel is left open, and whether it comes to fruition may depend on how well the film performs in China. Having cast Wu Jing in a starring role, the studio may be banking on that outcome.

If there is a sequel, let us hope that Jason Statham’s character becomes more than a stoic action figure with a muscular physique. His trademark cutting wit is central to his appeal, which is largely missing here with a few exceptions.

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



‘SOUND OF FREEDOM’ RATED PG-13

What could possibly be entertaining in a film about the sex trafficking of children? The subject matter of “Sound of Freedom” is powerful in its mission to bring awareness to human tragedy that is shameful and despicable.

If there’s just one film this summer that carries an important message, this one based on the incredible story of former federal agent Tim Ballard is it for shining a bright light on a dark underworld.

That there has been some controversy over “Sound of Freedom” is somewhat mystifying. Allegations have been tossed about QAnon conspiracy theories. But the QAnon Shaman dressed like a Viking during the Capitol riot is nowhere in sight.

One review posted on Rotten Tomatoes seems to think the movie is an alt-right rallying cry that is profiting off “conspiracy-fueled mass hysteria.” On the other hand, positive audience reviews are through the roof.

Granted, the anti-human trafficking activist Tim Ballard, who was a Homeland Security special agent and then founder of Operation Underground Railroad, is played by Jim Caviezel, an actor probably best-known for playing Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ.”

Whether Caviezel being a devout Catholic has maybe steered him to some unconventional stances is immaterial to the intensity and conviction he brings to the role of the federal agent first seen busting a consumer of Internet child porn.

If there’s a religious undertone to the story, Caviezel’s Ballard explains his obsession with the crime of child sex trafficking on his belief that “God’s children are not for sale.” That axiom is even a refrain in a featured song.

However, there’s no compelling reason, other than to cast aspersions on someone for perceived unorthodox viewpoints, to dwell on any ostensible political bias that’s not blatantly evident in the movie.

What’s on the screen is a thriller, and one should hope that going after pedophiles is not a left-right issue. After all, does anyone have anything positive to say about the likes of a Jeffrey Epstein? Didn’t think so, unless maybe you’re Prince Andrew, Duke of York.

Back to the opening story of taking down a creep for sexual perversion, Ballard has already arrested hundreds of the human filth who distribute sexually exploitative material, but now he wants to get to the root cause of the problem, and that means heading south of the border.

In Honduras, single father Roberto (Jose Zuniga) is enticed by former beauty queen and music competition show promoter Katy (Yessica Borroto Perryman) to allow his 11-year-old daughter Rocio (Cristal Aparicio) to audition for a contest.

Rocio’s 8-year-old brother Miguel (Lucas Avila) is part of the package as well for the talent show. The audition seems to be legitimate, but when the father returns later to pick up the kids, the place is empty and deserted. A parent’s worst nightmare ensues.

After uncovering some connections obtained from the last person he arrested, Ballard spearheads an operation to apprehend a trafficker at the Mexican border, leading to the fortuitous rescue of the traumatized Miguel.

However, it is not mission accomplished, since Rocio has disappeared into the wind, mostly likely in South America, but she could be anywhere, maybe in Russia or Los Angeles.

The trail might lead to Colombia and Ballard convinces his boss (Kurt Fuller) for a week’s leave and spending cash for an unsanctioned foreign operation, but soon he resigns his position with the support of his wife (Mira Sorvino) to go full lone ranger.

In Bogota, Ballard’s contact is Vampiro (Bill Camp), an American expatriate with a shady past of laundering money for the cartels but who’s now willing to work on the right side of the law.

A scheme is hatched to team up with the deep-pocketed Pablo (Eduardo Verastegui) to create a phony members-only exclusive club on a remote island for well-heeled pedophiles. The plan is to deceive traffickers in order to liberate enslaved children.

The plot works to a point. A bunch of truly horrible criminals, including the former beauty queen Katy, are captured by a Colombian task force, but Rocio is not among the children who are rescued.

The next step becomes far more dangerous for Ballard, who is now being helped by Vampiro. Signs point in the direction of the no man’s land of Narino Province, a place much like the Bronx in the Seventies. Neither the police nor the army dare to enter this criminal stronghold.

The remote jungle of the province is the domain of the warlord named Scorpio who runs a cocaine factory and has Rocio hostage as his sex slave. Ballard and Vampiro pose as U.N. doctors bringing vaccines to eradicate an imaginary outbreak.

Posing as the fake doctor in the rebel camp where Scorpio’s henchmen are a bunch of trigger-happy lunatics does ratchet up the dramatic thrills for Ballard’s single-minded determination to save Rocio.

“Sound of Freedom” takes dramatic liberties with a dangerous journey into the jungle, but it only serves to heighten the basic story of the horrors perpetrated by evil people.

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




‘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.

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