Monday, 14 June 2021

Arts & Life



‘TOM CLANCY’S WITHOUT REMORSE’ Rated R

Tom Clancy fans probably don’t need the on-screen general trivia note to tell them that the film “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse” bears no resemblance to the plot of the novel except that the lead character named John Clark was a Navy SEAL.

In fact, the book was the explosive origin story of action hero John Clark. In the film, the character is John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) until the middle of the end credits reveal his new identity as the ghost he’s expected to become.

Performing heroic acts in war-torn Syria, Senior Chief John Kelly and a small crew rescue a CIA operative taken hostage by ex-Russian military forces. After an ugly firefight, the Americans barely escape only to return home to more danger.

Three months later, in apparent retaliation for the mission, members of Kelly’s unit end up dead mob-style or by a hit-and-run. Kelly’s pregnant wife Pam (Lauren London) is murdered during a home invasion.

Despite being shot multiple times, Kelly manages to kill all but one of the Russian assassins before being rushed to the hospital, and you know revenge is on his mind.

Meanwhile, Kelly’s commanding officer Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith) meets with CIA agent Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell) and Defense Secretary Thomas Clay (Guy Pearce) to plot response options.

Not waiting for direction, Kelly goes rogue and takes matters into his own hands to track down the Russian diplomat who gave cover to the murderers. An explosive scene takes place at Dulles Airport that strains plausibility, but so do other actions.

Sent to prison for assaulting the Russian official, Kelly bargains his way out by knowing that the surviving assassin is hiding out in Russia. He then joins Greer and Ritter on a top-secret mission.

Their plane trip to Russia gets shot down and plummets into the Bering Sea, in what is perhaps the film’s thrilling action sequence that tests the survival skills of the SEALs.

Before long, the plot veers off into a vast international conspiracy theory orchestrated by powerful political figures. Don’t know that we can or should sort it out, but that’s where we stand.

The mid-credits offer the almost certain prospect of a sequel in the works, and if not, the audience has been left hanging. Whatever the case may be, one may hope the next installment would have more depth for its characters and a more coherent plot and storyline.



‘LOUDERMILK’ ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

The Audience Network was a pay television channel that was owned by AT&T and delivered a mix of original and acquired series, specials and feature films and existed for the approximate length of one presidential election cycle.

The comedy series “Loudermilk,” that premiered on Audience Network back in October 2017 with a run of two seasons before the third season had to find a new home, was watched by as many viewers who could fit into a phone booth.

All three seasons are now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, and the half-hour episodes are worth watching if you enjoyed Ron Livingston’s nonchalance in striking back at the soul-crushing absurdity of the corporate structure in “Office Space.”

As the titular character, Livingston’s Sam Loudermilk takes indifference and emotional detachment to a new level as a former music journalist and author who is a recovering alcoholic and now spends his time in Seattle as a substance abuse counselor.

Warm and fuzzy is not how anyone would describe Loudermilk (almost everyone calls him by his last name). He’s often a grumpy misanthrope whose words are so unfiltered you’d think he has Tourette’s Syndrome.

Loudermilk brings tough love to his therapy sessions with a collection of colorful characters, including the dimwitted Mugsy (Brian Regan) and a bookie (Jackie Flynn) who manages to get most of the group in debt to a mob boss.

The group meets at a local church, where Father Michael (Eric Keenleyside), often at odds with Loudermilk’s cavalier ways, threatens to boot him out of the meeting hall unless he starts counseling messed up stripper Claire (Anja Savcic).

What’s more, Claire becomes a roommate at Loudermilk’s apartment that he already shares with his best friend and sponsor Ben (Will Sasso), who happens to harbor secrets and is perhaps the only person able to abide Loudermilk for more than ten minutes.

A new neighbor next door is Allison (Laura Mennell) for whom Loudermilk is smitten and yet incapable of carrying more than a brief conversation before undermining whatever charm he may have displayed momentarily.

True to his sardonic nature and antisocial behavior, Loudermilk sporadically launches into rants, whether berating a barista for her affectation of a haughty accent or randomly chastising a smoker waiting for a bus.

The titular character has his own demons and finds his situations often descending into absurdity.

“Loudermilk” is a smart, clever comedy with crude humor and sometimes on the dark side, but it would be good to check out while it remains on the Amazon Prime Video platform.

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

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

June Jordan died in 2002, an American child of Jamaican immigrants whose remarkable poetry is collected in The Essential June Jordan, a new collection published by Copper Canyon Press.

This eloquent fist of a poem reminds us of what remains at stake in this longstanding and necessary conversation that America continues to have with itself.

Democracy Poem #1
By June Jordan

Tell them that I stood
in line
and I waited
and I waited
like everybody
else

But I never got
called
And I keep that scrap
of paper
in my pocket

just in case

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 June Jordan, “Democracy Poem #1” from The Essential June Jordan, (Copper Canyon Press, 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of The June M. Jordan Literary Estate Trust 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.

Mildred Pickersgill. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Lake County Symphony Association recently lost one of its most cherished members, Charter member Mildred Pickersgill.

She was a driving force in the history of the LCSA and was very active in the establishment and leadership of the organization from the very beginning.

Pickersgill served on the first LCSA Board of Directors in 1977 when it was known as Clear Lake Performing Arts and continued as a board member for many years, until very recently.

She served two terms as president of LCSA, and was also the official historian, compiling a unique collection of albums that were filled with pictures, news articles, programs and posters.

During her many years of service, Pickersgill planned concerts, served as membership chairman and ad sales coordinator, stored youth instruments in her home, and was the librarian who organized and cataloged the large inventory of orchestra music.

She also played her violin in the symphony for about 24 years – from the very first concert in 1978 to 2002.

As historian, Pickersgill wrote many historical highlights of LCSA for its anniversary programs.

It is interesting to read her own words regarding the beginnings of LCSA in 1977. “Our son, Bill, a music major at S.F. State, received a letter in 1977, telling of a plan to begin a classical music organization in Lake County. Jean and Lucien Mitchell, members of the S. F. Symphony and Opera Orchestras, had moved to Lake County, and with some Lake County friends, planned their first meeting. The local newspaper told of the gathering at the Mitchell home. I compared the picture in the paper with my high school yearbook of 1938, and Jean Mitchell surely looked like the Jean Marie Mattos whom I had known at Tamalpais High. She played cello in the advanced orchestra and was an inspiration to me as I played violin in the beginning orchestra. The Mitchells hosted an inspiring afternoon reception in October 1977, and we were encouraged to join the new Clear Lake Performing Arts as charter members.

“There were 75 members who became the first Board of Directors. There was also a list to sign if we wanted to play in the new orchestra. I hadn’t opened my case in 38 years but was encouraged to sign. Our first rehearsal was in March 1978 and the first concert was in December 1978.”

The LCSA has now been in existence for over 40 years and the symphony continues to play at what many say is an extraordinary level for an orchestra of its size. Mildred Pickersgill helped make it all possible.

She died peacefully in November 2020 at 96 years of age.

Charitable donations may be made in Mildred’s name to the LCSA by going to www.lakecountysymphonyassociation.org.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — The Lake County Symphony Association recently received a generous grant from the Lake County Wine Alliance in the amount of $3,000.

Proceeds from this grant help support string classes and Youth Orchestra instruction, offered through the LCSA.

String classes include instruction in violin, viola and cello, and provide lessons for beginners on up.

Instructors lend support and instruction during the Youth Orchestra rehearsals and concerts.

The Lake County Wine Alliance is a nonprofit organization that holds an annual wine and art auction to raise funds for the arts, health and the community.

The auction is held in September. The net proceeds from this event are divided among agencies representing these three targeted areas.




‘THE COURIER’ RATED PG-13

Based on a true story that is ultimately more nuanced than what can be jammed into a film just shy of two hours, “The Courier” is an engrossing spy tale set in the early 1960s in the run-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Following on last week’s column about the “Spy City” series also set in roughly the same era, there’s something terribly gratifying about a suspenseful and propulsive spy thriller that taps into dramatic tension in the John Le Carre tone rather than excessive action stunts.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Greville Wynne is an ordinary British engineer and salesman representing manufacturers who travels frequently to Eastern European nations peddling his products and attending trade conferences.

Wynne’s globetrotting to the East comes to the attention of top operatives in MI6 and the CIA, respectively Dickie Franks (Angus Wright) and Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan), who think his talent for wining and dining clients makes for the perfect cover.

What the spooks have in mind for Wynne, without the benefit of any training in spycraft, is to assume the role of a courier to connect with a Russian colonel in the GRU, the military intelligence service, who wants to pass along intel to avert a looming nuclear showdown.

The experienced Russian agent is Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze), a patriot who finds himself conflicted over the bellicose and erratic nature of Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev that has him worried the world is on the brink of annihilation.

On a first lunch meeting with Penkovsky, Wynne is asked if he can hold his alcohol, and the Brit replies “It’s my one true gift.” Wynne is a natural at boozing and losing golf games to clients on purpose.

A nice relationship develops between the two men, including frequent dinners, trips to the Bolshoi ballet and social gatherings that include their wives and children.

But not all is well for Wynne on the home front. Wynne’s wife Sheila (Jessie Buckley) grows suspicious of his repeated trips to Moscow, wary that he may be unfaithful. That he’s sworn to secrecy prevents him from reassuring his wife of his marital fidelity.

Even though Wynne is only assigned to bring back envelopes to London, a palpable sense of danger in Moscow is omnipresent and eventually the story takes a darker and more desperate turn.

We already know that Cumberbatch has the talent to capture the everyman quality of an unassuming salesman, but the real treat is Georgian actor Merab Ninidze, whose expressions and glances relay more powerful emotions than most actors convey through words and actions.

“The Courier” is a stylish period piece and a cerebral exercise of historical significance that’s worth watching to remember the terror and horrors of the tyrannical nature of communism.

PBS PREVIEW

There appears to be some interest in the lives of British royalty, or maybe it’s just the tabloid fodder of Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, and his wife Meghan, Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Sussex being in the news for ingratitude or whatever.

PBS is here to satiate your possible curiosity with its summer series of “Lucy Worsley’s Royal Myths & Secrets,” a travelogue across Britain and Europe visiting incredible locations where Royal history was made.

In beautiful palaces and castles and on dramatic battlefields, Worsley investigates how Royal history is a mixture of facts, exaggeration, manipulation and mythology. The first episode will explore how Queen Elizabeth I’s iconic warrior image shaped British national identity.

Put me down for the episode about the doomed Queen Marie Antoinette, who was notorious for her profligacy and love of fine clothes and parties. Worsley explores the famous myth of whether the last queen before the French Revolution uttered the phrase “Let them eat cake.”

Author of the hit debut novel “The Joy Luck Club,” Amy Tan’s seminal work was a commercial and critical success, and in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month on May 3, American Masters presents “Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir.”

An intimate portrait of the groundbreaking author Amy Tan interweaves archival imagery, including home movies and personal photographs, animation, and original interviews to tell an inspiring story of the writer’s life and career.

Born to Chinese immigrant parents, Tan opens up with remarkable frankness about traumas she’s faced in her life and how writing helped her heal. The film traces her meteoric rise from the point she picked up fiction writing as a mental break from heavy freelance business writing.

During the winter press tour, Amy Tan, who appears to want to keep things private, noted that the documentary was a way to take what’s in “The Joy Luck Club,” which is “also very private, but putting it out there the way it was.”

Joking about seeing herself “age over 32 years,” Tan also said that the documentary was “uncomfortable at times, and yet it seems like the best way to make sense of my life.” One fun fact is that Tan performed in a rock band with humorist Dave Barry and other authors.

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

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Missouri poet, Kitty Carpenter, could have chosen any number of titles for her poem, a moving and difficult accounting of how the roles of parent and child change as a result of the passing of time; but it is, in the end, a poem that locates its hope in memory—the memory that the farm represents for her when she thinks of her mother’s strength.

Farm Sonnet
By Kitty Carpenter

The barn roof sags like an ancient mare’s back.
The field, overgrown, parts of it a marsh
where the pond spills over. No hay or sacks
of grain are stacked for the cold. In the harsh
winters of my youth, Mama, with an axe,
trudged tirelessly each day through deep snow,
balanced on the steep bank, swung down to crack
the ice so horses could drink. With each blow
I feared she would fall, but she never slipped.
Now Mama’s bent and withered, vacant gray
eyes fixed on something I can’t see. I dip
my head when she calls me Mom. What’s to say?
The time we have’s still too short to master
love, and then, the hollow that comes after.


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 Kitty Carpenter, “Farm Sonnet” from Rattle, (Winter 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Kitty Carpenter 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.

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