Thursday, 11 August 2022

Arts & Life


Released theatrically, “Being the Ricardos” may now also be enjoyed from home on Amazon Prime Video. Watching this on television is fitting since this is the story of the production for the popular “I Love Lucy” series.

The Ricardos, of course, refer to the stars of the show, Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem), real-life married couple in the parts of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, respectively the quintessential dizzy redhead and the charismatic Cuban bandleader.

Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin as a behind-the-scenes drama, “Being the Ricardos” is structured to capture a single week of production from the Monday table read through the Friday live audience taping, interspersed with flashbacks of the couple’s fascinating history.

During the course of a week during a second season in 1952, Sorkin has crammed enough crises into the story that would under normal circumstances sink the careers and professional reputations of all parties involved.

As if the short window of producing one episode is not filled with enough predicaments, flashbacks and leaps into the future provide glimpses of the turbulent relationship of Lucy and Desi, from a whirlwind courtship to the burning ambition that made them leading television innovators.

Muckraking gossip columnist Walter Winchell drops a bombshell charge that Lucy’s past is linked to membership in the Communist party, while a tabloid spreads rumors of Desi’s alleged infidelity.

Meanwhile, Lucy reveals that she’s pregnant and Desi wants to incorporate her pending maternity into a storyline, but executives of Philip Morris, the show’s sponsor, object strenuously to changing the show’s formula.

Nevertheless, plenty of spectacle consumes the actual show, with J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda bringing humor and tension to the set as actors William Frawley and Vivian Vance in the roles of Fred and Ethel Metz, the comic foils as Lucy and Desi’s neighbors.

The behind the camera action in the writers’ room adds another enticing dimension to the “I Love Lucy” saga. Tony Hale shines as producer Jess Oppenheimer, and the writing team of Madelyn Pugh (Alia Shawkat) and Bob Carroll Jr. (Jake Lacy) have standout moments of competitive banter.

One drawback to “Being the Ricardos” might be how Sorkin unpacks the storyline with an overabundance of subplots, which in reality did not converge during the same week. Liberties have been taken with the chronology of events, as Sorkin shuffled the deck to make a better story.

To build the film’s narrative, Sorkin places obstacles in front of his characters with the end goal of informing and entertaining. As a result, there’s a case to be made here that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz get their due as Hollywood pioneers in the Golden Age of television.


As is the case with most sequels in a franchise, the question is whether the latest installment is unnecessary or inevitably forgettable or just maybe a combination of both.

Reflecting upon the latest James Bond film “No Time to Die,” I now ponder the notion that the beloved spy series enjoyed for so many decades has lost its impetus. At least, 007 had a good run, but the same may not prove true for the “Kingsman” franchise.

Set at the turn of the last century leading up to World War I, “The King’s Man” can’t decide what kind of movie it wants to be. Is it a war drama or espionage tale? Does it expose Britain’s brutal colonialism? How does pacifism coincide with its violent action?

However, “The King’s Man” is a prequel to “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and the origin story for the autonomous intelligence agency designed to be cut loose from the bureaucracy of a government-run spy organization.

The leading character of the Kingsman organization, operating stylishly out of the eponymously-named gentleman’s tailor shop on London’s Savile Row, is Ralph Fiennes’ aristocratic Orlando, the Duke of Oxford.

For one running an elite espionage outfit, that the Duke of Oxford is so committed to pacifism in the face of the looming World War I seems incomprehensible without the knowledge of his past experiences and concern to keep his son Conrad (Harris Dickinson) from joining the Army.

As a trusted ally to King George (Tom Hollander, who also plays Czar Nicholas and Kaiser Wilhelm), Oxford comes to realize that global conflict is inescapable and hence a clandestine group must be formed with the help of Shola (Djimon Hounsou) and Polly (Gemma Arterton).

Conrad defies his father’s wish and enlists with a desire to be sent to the front lines, ending up in fierce trench warfare that is as bleak and grim as anything seen in war movies such as “Saving Private Ryan” and more on point in “1917.”

For his part, the Duke of Oxford rises to the occasion for a mountaintop showdown with a Bond-like villain, parachuting from a plane and jostling with a mountain goat. “The Kingsman” allows for the erudite, polished Duke of Oxford to be a different yet rousing kind of hero.

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

This may not come as a surprise to anyone that the Hallmark Channel has been the champion of Christmas movies during the holidays.

To keep their exalted status, Hallmark unleashed a torrent of themed films back in October.

First out of the gate was “You, Me and the Christmas trees,” a story about an arborist (Danica McKellar) who helps a Christmas tree farmer (Benjamin Ayres) rescue his seasonal business. Of course, they end up falling for each other because that’s in the holiday spirit.

Just in case you miss the point, most of the Hallmark holiday movies have Christmas in their titles, but to switch it up a bit there’s “Making Spirits Bright,” a Victorian-themed “A Dickens of a Holiday,” and then a detour of sorts to “Eight Gifts of Hanukkah.”

Near the end of the Christmas line for Hallmark is “The Christmas House 2: Deck the Halls,” Sharon Lawrence and Treat Williams star as a married couple with two adult sons who find themselves in a Christmas decorating competition.

Seeking to be the top holiday movie destination, the Lifetime Channel just might be giving Hallmark a run for its money with its holiday-themed lineup called “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime,” with a premiere of 30 new movies in 30 days right up through Christmas Day.

Hardly needing an introduction, singer Reba McEntire and actor John Schneider, as the singing duo of Georgia and Joe Winter and years after their personal and professional breakup, agree to reunite and participate in a Christmas Charity concert in “Reba McEntire’s Christmas in Tune.”

Turner Classic Movies, or TCM, has announced a Classic Christmas Marathon, which by the looks of the 76 movies scheduled for the week leading up to Christmas Day is not in the same holiday ballpark as Hallmark and Lifetime.

According to TCM, Christmas movies come in all varieties, from warmhearted family stories about the holiday itself to comedies and dramas that feature incidental Christmas settings to crime thrillers and even Westerns.

Not on the list of classic Christmas films are “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story,” but then why not start off with the Oscar-winning Bing Crosby favorite “Going My Way” (1944) and the Christmas Day showing of the Judy Garland musical “In the Good Old Summertime” (1949).

Judy Garland, the mother of Liza Minnelli, introduced one of the most beloved holiday tunes, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” in Vincente Minnelli’s “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944), which is set over the course of an entire year but has a truly memorable Christmas sequence.

You can usually spot the Christmas-specific movies by their titles, such as the English drama “The Holly and the Ivy” (1952), “Bush Christmas” (1947) from Australia, the Robert Mitchum-Janet Leigh romance “Holiday Affair” (1949).

Add to those titles, the short film “Compliments of the Season” (1930), the episodic “Christmas Eve” (1947), and a modern retelling of the Nativity story in the short “Star in the Night” (1945).

There’s possibly the best version of the Dickens tale about the redemption of a mean-spirited miser in “A Christmas Carol” (1938), and a modern take on the story written by “The Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling, “Carol for Another Christmas” (1964), a TV movie starring Sterling Hayden.

Netflix has a slate of Christmas movies that it admits is not quite as robust as Hallmark Channel’s selection, at least not yet, but claims you can still get your fill of snowfalls, hot cocoa and Santa magic on demand.

With the streaming service of Netflix, it’s even easier to find a Christmas movie to get in the holiday spirit. Brooke Shields and Cary Elwes meet-cute over the purchase of a gorgeous Scottish castle in “A Castle for Christmas.”

The British comedy “Father Christmas is Back” has a great cast of Kelsey Grammer, John Cleese and Elizabeth Hurley. Four sisters reunite for a Christmas holiday in a Yorkshire castle and are joined by their estranged father, Grammer’s John Christmas.

To compete with the Hallmark Channel’s collection of romantic Christmas movies, Netflix is bringing back “A Knight Before Christmas” which tells the story of a medieval knight transported to modern-day Ohio.

A fish-out-of-water story, Josh Whitehouse’s Cole time travels to 2019 and encounters disillusioned teacher Brooke (Vanessa Hudgens) preparing for a loveless holiday season. PG-rated romantic antics ensue, but this cheesy flick may still be worth a watch.

Another sappy romantic holiday movie, “The Holiday Calendar” follows an aspiring photographer stuck in her small-town dead-end job. An antique Advent calendar passed down from her grandmother arrives just in time to point her toward love and a more fulfilling career.

Aside from “The Miracle on 34th Street” which will run on HBO Family, where do we find “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story?” For the former, look to Amazon’s Prime Video as well as Tubi and and the latter gets a marathon treatment on TBS.

May everyone enjoy the Christmas spirit with family, friends and the occasional fruitcake (OK, maybe not that) and a Happy New Year.

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

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Nan­cy Keat­ing has clear­ly rec­og­nized a fun­da­men­tal human val­ue of poet­ry, the capac­i­ty for art to help us cope with the mem­o­ries of our guilt-induc­ing acts.

In her poem ​“The Snowy Egret” the con­fes­sion of a man in a mag­a­zine killing a bird in his youth, serves as a source of empath­ic release for the poet from her own unspo­ken regret.

For­get­ting, she says, is not real­is­tic. This, as it hap­pens, is a handy truth for poets whose cur­ren­cy is memory.

The Snowy Egret
By Nan­cy Keat­ing

Give me another word for regret,
something more like forget
only better, more effective,

since in fact we really don’t forget
the bad things we did
or caused. I read in a letter

to The Sun Magazine where a man
will always remember the egret
lying, a silent heap of cirrus clouds,

at his 12-year-old feet. It was his first
and last time shooting a gun.
His confession stabbed me

into a memory of unremembered shame
and the ache in my stomach telling me
I had joined humanity.

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 ©2021 by Nancy Keating, “The Snowy Egret” from White Chick (Elixir Press, 2021.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 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.

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Here is an elegant flower of a poem — small, delicate in sentiment, and yet so resonant in meaning.

Sam Dodson, in a few short lines, observes the stoic strength of faith, the sadness of loss, and the rituals that we perform to help us cope with the helplessness that comes with grief.

After Her Mother Passed
By Sam Dodson

Lutheran beautiful Eva
broke down for a
dear, dear moment
before she picked
that rake back up
and moved maple
leaves over grass.

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 ©2021 by Sam Dodson, “After Her Mother Passed” from Big Life, (Black Mountain Press, 2021). Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 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.

The California Arts Council announced Tuesday that the nomination and application process for the next California poet laureate is now open.

Poets may self-nominate or be nominated by experts in the field of literature. For detailed instructions on how to apply, visit The submission deadline is Jan. 28, 2022.

“The role of the California Poet Laureate is to spread the art of poetry across the state, to inspire an emerging generation of literary artists, and to educate all Californians about the many poets and authors who have influenced California creative literary expression,” said Anne Bown-Crawford, executive director of the California Arts Council.

“The poet laureate provides public readings in communities across California and helps to educate civic and state leaders about the value of poetry and creative expression for all,” added Bown-Crawford.

The official position of California Poet Laureate was established in 2001 by former Gov. Gray Davis and is in the following California Government Code: Title 2, Div. 1, Chapter 9.5.

The state’s most recent poet laureate was Dana Gioia, who was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown. The poet laureate serves for a term of two years and may serve up to two terms.

The CAC manages the California poet laureate nomination process for the Office of Governor, in accordance with the law. The names of the top three nominees will be sent to the Governor’s office for consideration and screening.

Gov. Gavin Newsom will make the final selection and name the California poet laureate, who must be confirmed by the Senate.

After a call to the general public for nominations, applications will be reviewed and evaluated by a panel of knowledgeable and experienced California poets.

Nominees will be ranked according to the review criteria: recognition for excellence of their work; being known for a significant body of published work; having wide consideration as a poet of stature; and willingness to undertake a specific project that shall last through the term, agreed to by the California poet laureate and the Arts Council.

Questions about the nomination process and application information should be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Sixty years ago, the 1957 Broadway musical “West Side Story” was adapted to the big screen starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer in the roles of star-crossed lovers Maria and Tony as a modern-day Romeo and Juliet couple.

Fast forward six decades and director Steven Spielberg brings his unique talent for a re-imagining of the beloved musical that delights with a brilliant adaptation of the work of legends Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, the respective creators of the music and lyrics.

Not only are the memorable songs so enticing and seductive, the choreographed scenes of the rival Jets and Sharks gangs prowling the rough streets of New York City’s Upper West Side and shifting randomly into electric dance moves are something to behold.

Set in 1957 when urban renewal was replacing the neighborhood tenements to make way for the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and other developments, the streets are a battleground for the Jets, a white gang, and their Puerto Rican rivals known as the Sharks.

The putative leader of the Jets is rather bland Tony (Ansel Elgort), who comes across more like an Ivy League student than hardened street tough even though he served a prison term for nearly killing an immigrant.

The Sharks are under the command of Bernardo (David Alvarez), whose younger sister Maria (Rachel Zegler) becomes romantically linked with Tony in the Shakespearean-inspired young love that fuels a violent showdown of the opposing gangs.

While Tony is trying to go straight by working at Doc’s Drugstore, which is now run by widow Valentina (Rita Moreno), the Jets find the volatile Riff (Mike Faist) more than willing to rumble for the sake of claiming turf that will soon be gentrified.

Speaking of Rita Moreno, she’s a real treasure in this film, bridging the divide between the gangs as well as being an unrelated link to the past, considering she played the role of Bernardo’s girlfriend Anita in the original.

The tragedy of the love story is obvious to anyone familiar with the Shakespearean source material. What works well here is a romantic fairy tale told with superb passion and intensity.

Remember that the original “West Side Story” won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and that alone is a reason to marvel at Spielberg’s daring to take on the challenge of a remake, and yet the result is fits of apparent messaging that may diminish widespread appeal.

In a world where so many films are rebooted to dwindling acclaim, was a remake of the iconic “West Side Story” essential? Probably not, because the original remains so fantastic but at least the radiant choreography and music of this updated version provide great pleasure.


Though he may not be a household name, Scott Adkins is making his mark as an action star in B-movies and that’s a good thing. After all, guys like Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris are now too old, and Charles “Death Wish” Bronson is no longer with us.

With martial arts skills similar to those of more famous B-grade action stars, Adkins has had supporting roles in big pictures like “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning.” Soon he’ll be seen in the next “John Wick” sequel.

Punching above his weight to get to the next level of action stardom, Adkins portrays Navy SEAL Lt. Blake Harris as a fearless warrior reduced to a one-man army when faced with holding the line against cutthroat insurgents.

An emergency situation compels Harris to lead an elite squad of fellow SEALs and junior CIA analyst Zoe Anderson (Ashley Greene Khoury) to retrieve a detainee from a CIA black site on a remote island that resembles the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.

The mission appears simple enough. Disembark from the chopper and retrieve suspected terrorist mastermind Amin Mansur (Waleed Elgadi) for interrogation about the location of a dirty bomb set to destroy the three branches of government in Washington, D.C.

Yet, we know things won’t go smoothly. First problem is the base’s chief officer Jack Yorke (Ryan Phillippe) who refuses to release the detainee based solely on the intel provided by Anderson.

Before the internal squabbling subsides, a band of ruthless mercenaries led by particularly nasty and brutal Charef (Jess Liaudin), who looks like a UFC cage fighter, invades the island determined to kill Mansur and snuff out any chance he’ll divulge terrorist secrets.

There’s no way that Adkins would take a role where he would not shoot, stab, kick and punch his way to eliminating the hordes of villains armed with AK-47s and an endless supply of ammo.

Filmed as a nonstop take, “One Shot” fashions a relentless battle with mercenaries where the tension continues to mount as Harris and the soldiers on the base face increasingly difficult odds for survival.

The perceptive B-movie aficionado who appreciates that Scott Adkins, who also appeared in “The Expendables 2,” is hellbent on delivering the goods will not be disappointed by the taut action of “One Shot.”

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

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