Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Arts & Life




‘AMBULANCE’ Rated R

At one time in the past, Los Angeles had the dubious title of the bank robbery capital of the world.

One notorious theft came in the infamous North Hollywood bank heist where the LAPD found themselves seriously outgunned by the bad guys.

One would be tempted to think that director Michael Bay, known for special effects and huge budget action films, would be inspired by real-life events in the City of Angels for his heist thriller “Ambulance.”

Well, that would not be the case. Bay’s latest venture into thrills comes courtesy of screenwriter Chris Fedak being inspired by Danish thriller “Ambulancen,” a film that featured two bank robbers who hijack an ambulance with a heart attack patient on board.

The breakneck thriller that was envisioned by the creative team boils down to high-tension, character-driven crime drama that takes place over the course of one day across the streets, freeways and even the concrete bed of a usually dry Los Angeles River.

While assorted criminals and an army of police and FBI agents shooting it out raise the stakes, the focus of the story is on two men linked by brotherhood but widely divergent on principles who are involved in the biggest bank heist in Los Angeles history.

Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his adoptive brother Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) grew up together as family. Will, a decorated war veteran, is a devoted family man, while the charismatic yet insanely psychotic Danny is a career criminal wanted by the FBI.

Devoted to his wife who needs costly experimental surgery, Will is desperate for money to pay her medical bills not covered by insurance. Will wants a loan, but Danny offers a solution with an expected $32 million haul only if his sibling joins the robbery crew.

Erratic and delusional about his talent as a mastermind, Danny believes he has the perfect scheme. At first, everything is going according to plan until a lovestruck rookie cop shows up hoping to get the nerve to ask a pretty teller for a date.

Danny finesses the tense situation until the cop’s partner waiting outside realizes a robbery is in progress, and then all hell breaks loose. In the immediate getaway on foot through a labyrinth of underground areas, the cop is seriously wounded.

When the two brothers hijack an ambulance, they take paramedic Cam Thompson (Eiza Gonzalez) and the rookie cop Zach Parker (Jackson White), barely clinging to life, as hostages, and hence begins a wild chase.

Assigned the unenviable task of coordinating the law enforcement operation, Captain Tyler Monroe (Garret Dillahunt) won’t hesitate to shoot to kill and is eager to avenge his injured officer.

Called to duty on his day off, Monroe arrives on the scene, wearing USC gear and camouflage pants, in a small Fiat with his insanely huge 200-pound mastiff in the passenger seat.

The LAPD captain’s old-school style clashes with the younger FBI Special Agent Anson Clark (Keir O’Donnell), who by odd coincidence shares a complicated past with Danny Sharp, as both had studied criminology together at the University of Maryland.

While Captain Monroe and FBI agent Clark tussle over strategy and tactics, there is plenty of yelling and tension developing between the Sharp brothers, with Will being the empathetic character because his sibling is truly a dangerous and unhinged psychopath.

Logic is widely absent from “Ambulance.” There’s no point to giving much thought to how easily the two brothers evade the police in high-speed chases, especially when it appears that every cop and federal agent in the entire metropolis has been mobilized.

Even less believable is Cam, a medical school dropout due to drug abuse, being able by face timing two surgeons to handle a delicate surgical procedure while the ambulance is madly careening through the streets.

Fond of explosions and overwrought action, Michael Bay has little use for subtlety or refined sensibilities. If you come to “Ambulance” with the expectation of a plethora of violent thrills, disappointment will not cross your mind.

“Ambulance” is spirited, mindless entertainment. It is by turns silly and insipid or passionately calculating, the latter most evident when the paramedic attending to the wounded cop becomes emotionally connected.

Notably in the director’s dynamic style is the delivery of a rollercoaster ride that can almost make one dizzy from the scattershot blast of vehicle crashes and shootouts.

“Ambulance” could have benefited from tighter editing, seeing how a lot of the action is gratuitously repetitive. But the director is not known for restraint, and so over-the-top and virtually non-stop action is the order of the day.

Action junkies probably won’t be disheartened by the excesses of “Ambulance.” If you are in that group, strap in for a high-octane action journey that is far-fetched but still thrilling most of the time.

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

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Marianne Chan, in her riddle of a poem, “Momotaro in the Philippines,” reminds us of how the world contracts by migration, by communication technology, and by trade, and how every culture finds a way to make sense of the cultures that somehow find their way into their worlds.

Momotaro is best known as the boy hero birthed from the seed of a peach in Japanese folklore.

For Filipino-American poet, Chan, peaches evoke alienness: Europe, cans, boy-heroes, Japan, and America — peaches are part of the global world of trade.

Her “peach girl” becomes a counter-hero. She is not “a warrior, no hero.” She loves and she stingily consumes delicious peaches for her survival. I find her defiant self-awareness strangely comforting.

Momotaro in the Philippines
By Marianne Chan

Here, peaches come from boxes
that smell like Europe, from cans
made of a tin-coated steel.
I lie with the peaches soaking in
saccharine darkness until freed.
I don't recognize the children
who run toward me. Their faces
like the feathers on the feet
of birds. Their slippers repeating that
melancholic drone. “Wake up,” they say.
“Wake up.” And as I rise from
the dreamy fluid-oh, the America,
which preserves me -I press
my sticky forehead on your sun-­
freckled hand. I love you, am sorry,
am not a warrior, no hero. I
fight for nothing, am stingy. I ate
all the peaches from the can
from the box from which I came.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Marianne Chan, “Momotaro in the Philippines” from All Heathens (Sarabande Books, 2020.) Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

LAKEPORT, Calif. — The Lake County Symphony Orchestra is returning to live performances after a two-year gap, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2022 Mother's Day Pops Concert will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at the Soper Reese Theatre in Lakeport.

This year’s concert features a “Salute to Broadway.”

Audience members will hear many familiar tunes from hit Broadway shows including “The King and I,” “The Sound of Music” and “Guys and Dolls.”

Additionally, they will be treated to the vocal stylings of local veteran jazz singer, Paula Samonte. The prolific and popular vocalist will be performing three numbers arranged for orchestra by LCSA's conductor, John Parkinson.

Concertmaster Andi Skelton has been hard at work for several months ordering music and preparing music books for a full orchestra.

Due to COVID safety concerns, wind instruments were not included during virtual performances filmed in the Soper Reese Theatre during the last two years.

This resumption of live concerts will kick off with the debut of the newly formed Lake County Community & Youth Orchestra.

Under the baton of director Sue Condit, this open-enrollment musical group is composed of community members — ages from middle-school and up — who are eager to share what they have studied together since mid-February.

Tickets for the concert are $25 for general seating and $30 for premium seating, now available for purchase on the Soper Reese website. There is a $5 discount for LCSA members.

Tickets are also available at the Soper Reese box office the day of the concert. Please arrive 30 minutes prior to the show when buying tickets at the door.

The 11 a.m. dress rehearsal is discounted and makes it more affordable for nearly everyone to attend. It costs nothing for those under age 18 and is just $5 for the older crowd. Because seating for the dress rehearsal may be limited, people are urged to arrive extra early to ensure a seat.

Due to COVID, the Soper Reese is proceeding with caution; proof of vaccination and masks are required, and seating may be limited to 50% depending on the number of cases in Lake County at the time of the concert.

Read the entire COVID policy on the theater’s website for details about exceptions to vaccinations.

Paula Samonte. Courtesy photo.

LAKEPORT, Calif. — Local songstress Paula Samonte will be the featured vocalist in the “Best of Broadway” Mother’s Day Concert, presented by the Lake County Symphony Orchestra.

The concert will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at the Soper Reese Theatre in Lakeport.

This year’s concert features a “Salute to Broadway.”

Samonte will be performing three numbers arranged for orchestra by Lake County Symphony Association Conductor John Parkinson.

Originally from San Francisco, Samonte has been described as “an effervescent performer with decades of national and international experience.”

She is well-known by music-lovers locally and around the country.

Samonte has been a featured vocalist with Ukiah Symphony, Lake County Symphony, Mendocino College Jazz Band, and the Mendocino College Concert Band.

She has performed in local musicals including “Cabaret,” “South Pacific,” “Anything Goes” and many more.

The city of Ukiah awarded Samonte with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for her commitment and dedication to the community through her talents and creative presentations.

For tickets and more information visit the theater website.



‘THE ENDGAME’ ON NBC

A new crime drama series on NBC, “The Endgame” is basically a psychological thriller involving two female adversaries on opposite sides of the law in a cat-and-mouse game playing out during a number of coordinated bank heists throughout New York City.

On the wrong end is Elena Federova (Morena Baccarin), recently captured international arms dealer and brilliant criminal mastermind. Her antagonist is Val Turner (Ryan Michelle Bathe), the principled, relentless and outsider FBI agent determined to foil any criminal plots.

Flashbacks abound to sketch details of both women’s backgrounds. Noticed as a child in war-torn Ukraine, Federova proves smarter and more cunning than those who wish her harm.

Driven by a desire to avenge her mother’s death, Turner is coping with the fact her moral rectitude required her to turn in her fellow agent husband Owen (Kamal Bolden) for taking bribes.

Depending upon one’s viewpoint within the agency, Turner is either viewed with suspicion by her superiors wondering if she is complicit in her husband’s alleged crimes or merely ostracized by fellow agents for breaking a code of loyalty.

In the first episode, Federova is brought by federal agents to a secure location at Fort Totten in Queens, New York, for an interrogation by high-level cabinet members of the U.S. government that ends up swirling around layers of obfuscation and deceit.

As Turner once had an encounter with Federova on a mission in Africa, only the outcast FBI agent has any real chance of breaking through the mystery shrouding the motives of the Ukrainian crime boss.

The smug Federova, often smirking her disdain for her captors, is tight-lipped about the series of well-orchestrated bank robberies taking place around the city but is more than eager to drop veiled threats against high-powered officials concealing their corrupt misdeeds.

On the inside of the FBI, Turner’s only ally is her partner Agent Flowers (Jordan Johnson-Hinds) who cautions her to avoid needless confrontations with their boss Patrick Doak (Noah Bean), who does not appreciate Turner’s insightful approach to dealing with Federova.

“The Endgame” might be a sexier version of the long-running “The Blacklist,” another NBC series with a strong resemblance to the concept of a sharp criminal mastermind focused on dealing with only one FBI agent.

In brief, Morena Baccarin, dressed glamorously in her imprisonment as if headed to a gala event, is, well, a whole lot more erotic than any of the criminals in that other series.

The question that only the viewer may answer is whether the battle of wits in the chess game between the two female adversaries holds enough suspense to hang for every chapter in this saga.

The jury remains out after the first couple of episodes as to what exactly is the endgame of the cat-and-mouse diversion and if we have the patience to find out.

THRILLERS AND CRIME DRAMA MOVIES ON LIFETIME

The month of April brings more crime drama and thriller movies to the Lifetime channel. “Fatal Fandom” finds pop star Eden Chase (Chaley Rose) enlisting the help of bodyguard Jackson Reed (Pete Ploszek) when she’s almost kidnapped by a crazed fan.

The handsome, brooding bodyguard moves into Eden’s home to become her full-time security. Soon, Eden realizes that Jackson has an unhealthy attachment to her as he turns out to be a predator harboring a dark secret from the past.

In “She Went Missing,” when investigative reporter Maya (Corbin Reid) learns that her childhood best friend has gone missing, she decides to cover the story herself.

But just as Maya’s return to her hometown unearths memories and rekindles past relationships, it also brings out a stalker. As her investigation deepens, the danger strikes closer and closer to home.

Will Maya uncover the truth about her friend’s disappearance? Or will Maya herself wind up being the next tragic news story? “She Went Missing” is apparently in the wheelhouse of Lifetime’s penchant for crime dramas.

Single lawyer Chastity Jeffries (Michelle Williams) meets Xavier Collins (Antonio Cupo), who appears to be everything she is looking for in a partner — handsome, smart and a lawyer as well – in “Wrath: A Seven Deadly Sins Story.”

As his affection turns to obsession, Chastity realizes she has been swept up by Xavier’s passion and abandoned her principles. Xavier’s jealousy and wrath lead to suspicious actions and dangerous threats.

Chastity confides in her mother Sarah (Tina Knowles-Lawson) and turns to her former childhood boyfriend Roger Thompkins (Romeo Miller) for help. In the end, Chastity will have to fight to save herself.

“The Walls Are Watching” may be prophetic for the actions of unemployed Theodore (Branscombe Richmond), who after losing his wife and son begs the bank to give him one more chance to keep his custom-built house.

Despite his pleading, the bank forecloses and auctions off his home to newlyweds Erica (Lana McKissack) and Mitch Brody (Brandon Ford Green). But before they can live happily ever after, Theodore unleashes a cat-and-mouse game of terror on the couple when they refuse to leave the home.

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

Indian Paintbrush and Meadowlark by Meyo Marrufo.


MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — The Middletown Art Center invites the public to attend “Stories Our Ancestors Told Us” on Friday, April 8, from 6 to 8 p.m. on Zoom.

Tribal storytellers Anthony Steele, Kyle Bill, Corine Pearce and Eric Wilder will share traditional stories from tribal communities of this region from the lake to the sea.

The event is part of Middletown Art Center’s WEAVING — Weaving Baskets, Weaving Bridges project.

“These stories are our oral traditions. They impart the wisdom of our ancestors and are infused with their spirit and our memories of them,” said Rose Steele, cultural educator from Elem. “The stories speak of our core value and responsibility to live in harmony with the land. They teach us how to respect the land, animals, plants, and people of the mountains and water bodies that comprise this region. We invite you to join us and listen with your mind, body, spirit and open heart.”

WEAVING – Weaving Baskets, Weaving Bridges was co-designed by Indigenous cultural educators and MAC staff to provide a forum for sharing the traditions and history that have shaped Lake County and the region. The year-long project features cultural arts workshops and presentations and will culminate in an exhibit of contemporary Indigenous art at the MAC Gallery this July, in tandem with Pomo heritage basket exhibits at Lake County’s three Historical Museums.

Register for Zoom access to this special event at www.middletownartcenter.org/weaving. Pre-registration is required to ensure that the Zoom room can accommodate all virtual attendees. It’s by donation or free. All donations support the project and documentation.

WEAVING is supported in part by an Impact Grant award from the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more about the California Arts Council at arts.ca.gov.

To find out more about the WEAVING project and view recordings of past events visit www.middletownartcenter.org/weaving.

Discover what’s happening at MAC and ways to get involved, support, and join the MAC in weaving the arts into the fabric of life in Lake County ​at ​www.middletownartcenter.org.​

Upcoming Calendar

29Nov
11.29.2022 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Rotary Club of Clear Lake
1Dec
12.01.2022 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
1Dec
12.01.2022 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Clearlake City Council
3Dec
12.03.2022 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
3Dec
12.03.2022 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Weekly writing workshop
6Dec
12.06.2022 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Rotary Club of Clear Lake
8Dec
12.08.2022 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
8Dec
12.08.2022 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Adult Literacy Program in-person tutor training
9Dec
12.09.2022 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Hometown Christmas in Lower Lake

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